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Book Review: Time and Chance - Sharon Kay Penman
Time and Chance, the latest entry from historical fiction author Sharon Kay Penman, offers an engaging portrayal of Medieval England and France. Focusing on the characters of King Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the martyred archbishop Thomas Becket, Penman explores the complex political and personal landscape of her characters with a deft hand.
As a sequel to When Christ and His Saints Slept, the narrative of Time and Chance begins in 1156, shortly after Henry II has married Eleanor of Aquitaine (the former queen of France) and succeeded to the throne of England.
By using a changing viewpoint, Penman shows us life through the eyes of Henry, Eleanor, Thomas Becket, and a purely fictional character, Ranulf, who was also featured prominently in When Christ and His Saints Slept, and who gives a certain measure of continuity to the story.
Penman is noted for her historical accuracy, and while I've heard a few minor quibbles from historians, all in all, the book seems to be as well researched as her others. In fact, the one criticism I have is that she sticks too closely to the chronicles, in some cases even quoting them directly. There's nothing wrong with sticking to documentary evidence, but I admit to wishing that Penman had gotten a little more deeply into the heads of her characters, in spite of the lack of sources documenting their motivation. Or perhaps, because of that lack.
All in all, however, I think Time and Chance is a credit to Ms. Penman and I would highly recommend it to historical fiction lovers everywhere.
If you are interested in researching the characters in Time and Chance further, the following resources may help.
Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings - Amy Kelly
Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography - Marion Meade
Henry II - W.L. Warren
Henry Plantagenet, A Biography of Henry II of England - Richard Barber
Richard the Lionheart - John Gillingham
The Lives of Thomas Becket - Michael Staunton
Thomas Becket: The Last Days - William Urry
Eleanor During the Crusades - Not scholarly, but interesting (ed.)
Thomas Becket - Resources
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