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Book Review: The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon Kay Penman
The misshapen monster of Shakespeare's play is an accurate portrayal of Richard III--or is it?
Sharon Kay Penman paints a different picture of the most reviled king in English history. Who was the man who served his brother, Edward IV, loyally for 12 years, then took the throne upon his brother's death, disinheriting his brother's children? Who was the man who inspired such loyalty in his boyhood friends that many of them followed him to Bosworth and died with their king in battle? Did he marry Anne Neville for love, or because she was the greatest heiress in England?
Although fictional, Penman's story is solidly based on historical documents. No evidence exists to prove Richard and Anne's marriage was a love-match; but Penman shows what may have been. Over 2/3 of the book depicts Richard's life before he becomes king. The events culminating in Richard's acceptance of the Crown at the request of the Lords, Commons, and clergy, are presented compellingly. Penman's explanation for the disappearance of Richard's nephews incorporates one popular theory among Ricardians.
Penman fleshes out historical figures, the events of whose lives are known, but whose thoughts and emotions are not. We care about her characters. The dialog has a medieval flavor but is accessible to modern readers.
One quibble--Penman has a tendency to overuse descriptive devices. A frequent motif has characters who are under stress pouring wine into a nearby glass, dropping a glass into the floor rushes, or sloshing wine over the edge of a glass. The book is long, but the dynamic characters and the vigor of the story held my attention.
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