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If All the Swords in England (Living History Library) [Paperback]

Barbara Willard , Robert M. Sax
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 8.84 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Bethlehem Books,U.S. (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883937493
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883937492
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.1 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 984,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In 1170, orphaned twin brothers, one in service to England's King Henry II and the to other Archbishop Thomas Becket, witness the climax of a long-standing battle of wills.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good on Thomas Becket - quite a slow pace 26 Dec 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this in preparation for teaching Thomas Becket. Twin brothers are separated by joining two different households - the King's and Thomas Becket's. Most of the plotline deals with the journey towards martyrdom of Becket and the involvement of the brothers.

The book is enjoyable: unlike a lot of historical novels for children, it is written by a Brit and the details have a resulting authenticity in the language. What carries the story along is the historical details of the Becket plot and this seems to be very accurate, even down to the details of the church-state quarrels that lead to his death.

It feels a long book. The style is simple (so a 10 year old could easily tackle it), but the political points are detailed and the pace is slow, so this would probably suit an older child with some knowledge of medieval history.

The Becket storyline is the most interesting. After a lot of personal interest at the start of the book, the hero and his twin actually have very little to do with each other, and their involvement in the ending could have been more exciting - hence the 4. It is a bit Catholic (coming from a reformed perspective), venerating Our Lady etc, but that was how it was then and the book does not dwell on theology - Becket's Christian faith is key to the book.

All in all, great if you are studying Thomas Becket, otherwise a good Christian read for a bright pre-teen upwards.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless story of courage and conscience 26 Sep 2000
By Steven Keller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Barbara Willard's If All the Swords in England, first published in 1961, makes a happy comeback in this quality paperback edition by Bethlehem Books.
The drama unfolds during the turbulent years of the argument between King Henry II Plantagenet and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning juridical authority in church matters.
After the tragic deaths of their parents, brothers Simon and Edmund Audemer are separated. Edmund becomes a page in the court of King Henry II, while Simon becomes a scribe in the household of Thomas Becket.
Willard's use of the literary device of the two brothers allows the reader a "first-hand" glimpse into both the characters of Thomas Becket and Henry II as well as into the climate of the times.
The book is full of exciting episodes (including a miracle), and interesting characters. Barbara Willard's If All the Swords in England presents a timeless story of courage and conscience. It is also an excellent introduction to the heavier Becket by Anouilh and T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. Grades 5-7.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of St. Thomas Becket 4 Oct 2007
By Florentius - Published on Amazon.com
If All the Swords in England tells the well-known tale of St. Thomas Becket and King Henry II through the eyes of two twin brothers, Simon and Edmund. Separated in their youth by the death of their parents, Simon, who is lame in one hand, becomes a servant to Becket the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury. He witnesses the sufferings of the Archbishop's household in France and the numerous attempts to bring about a reconciliation between the estranged churchman and his sovereign.

Meanwhile, Edmund comes of age in the royal court. He sees first hand the rages of a king obsessed with protecting his royal power and extending it even into the realm of the Church. The King will not reconcile with his former friend due to Thomas's insistence on standing up for the honor of God.

This book starts off slow but the climax is exceptionally well done--even if you know what's coming. In St. Thomas Becket, one can see a reflection of Christ, who fearlessly stood face-to-face with brutal, murderous men having nothing to defend himself with but the cross. All in all, this book is a fine introduction to the life of a very admirable man, and is easily read by young folks 12 and up.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story 6 Feb 2009
By CaZ - Published on Amazon.com
The story was well told. It pointed out many of the traditions of the church at the time.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a battle of wills 29 April 2010
By Elizabeth Yank - Published on Amazon.com
Even if you know what happens to Becket, Willard weaves a fascinating tale of drama and intrigue. Henry II and Thomas Becket are locked in a battle of the wills. Henry is determined to win, but will he? Henry II wants more power. Becket believes Henry's thirst for power has extended too far when he wants to include Church matters.

Even though we learn about the raging battle between Henry II and Thomas Becket, the story centers around Simon and his twin brother Edmund. Tragically, Simon and Edmund are orphaned. Where will they go? Who will they live with? Sadly, they are unable to stay together. Simon eventually enters the household of Thomas Becket as a scribe. Edmund enters the service of Henry II as a page. They provide eye-witness accounts into the personalities of Henry and Thomas and their ongoing dispute.

Willard not only outlines the facts of the case, she also engages the heart of the reader. We sympathize with Simon's suffering, the loss of his family and his inability to use his hand. In doing so, we also see gain compassion for Becket and his dilemma. Through Simon's compassion for others, we come to admire Simon's noble spirit.

Willard expertly educates by entertaining the reader. We learn about Henry inflicting his impulsive, raging temper on innocent lives and the devastating impact it has on them through his whims and forced marches, resulting in death to many. Most people just know that Henry and Thomas disagreed, through this story we learn how far ranging the effect of his temper had on others.

Willard accomplishes what few children's authors are able to do; She holds the interest of adults as well as children. She creates a story that holds the reader's attention, by developing a multilevel story that engages the heart and mind. We not only learn about Henry II and Thomas Becket, but we also learn about the greatness of the human heart, the strength of character to stay true to conscience, and the value of a loving family.
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