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Time and Chance (Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy 2) [Paperback]

Sharon Penman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Amazon Review

The Sunne in Splendour confirmed Sharon Penman's place in the upper echelons of historical novelists, combining a breathtaking panoply of the past with an acute psychological observation of her characters. Time and Chance is the second part of her trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, beginning in the glory years of their reign. Penman conjures for us an astonishing era in which Henry battles with the Welsh and the French king, appoints Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury and, by taking a mistress, makes a bitter enemy of his wife.

Novelists are all too conscious of the pitfalls of the second book in a trilogy--traditionally, the weakest before the rallying of the final volume. Penman deals with this problem with panache. We knew from her earlier work the scalpel-like precision of her character building, but the emotional lives of Henry and the troubled Eleanor are powerfully realised. As in the first book of the sequence, When Christ and his Saints Slept, conflict is ever the driving force. Henry and Eleanor's remarkable partnership was proving highly fecund, both politically (as Henry created a new image of medieval kingship), and physically, as Eleanor gave birth to five sons and three daughters, laying to rest her reputation as a barren queen and founding a dynasty that was to last three centuries. But auguries of trouble ahead were apparent: war with the Welsh; acrimonious battles with Eleanor's first husband, the French King. But the truly destabilising factor was Henry's decision to appoint his friend and confidant Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry had assumed that the worldly, ambitious Becket would be the perfect ally, and was devastated when the new archbishop cast off his own worldly past as he embraced his role as Defender of the Faith, swapping dissolution for piety.

As Penman vividly demonstrates, Henry saw Becket's action as a humiliating betrayal. One of the most famous murders in history ensued, with further conflict in the kingdom caused by a liaison with the daughter of a baron. In bedding Rosamund Clifford, Henry put his marriage and even his kingship at risk. As always Penman wears her research lightly: the personal drama is the engine of her narrative, with each fresh scandal and intrigue delivered with a beguiling combination of relish and restraint. She is assured in her detailing of the political and ecclesiastical clashes of the court, but it is Henry II who strides her novel like a colossus--just as he did the kingdom he ruled. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Did Eleanor get lost in Aquitaine?" was the e-mail that Penman received from one of her anxious readers after this, the second part of a trilogy that started with When Christ and His Saints Slept (1994), seemed to be a long time in coming. Well, the wait is over and Time and Chance continues from the year 1156 the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Central to this account is the famous episode of Thomas Becket's appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, and Henry's betrayal of Eleanor. The murder of Thomas Becket, which is hardly giving away the plot, is still perhaps Christendom's greatest scandal. This is historical fiction conceived on a grand scale, graced with good period detail and a gripping narrative pace. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

Every Writer’s Worst Nightmare

It was a hot pink loose-leaf binder with a peace sign on the cover, the sort of notebook that any student might tote to school. But it contained a pearl beyond price to me—the only copy of the novel that I’d been writing for the past four and a half years, a revisionist history of Richard III and the Wars of the Roses. Usually I treated it as if it were the Holy Grail when I traveled. I always carried it myself on planes, never checked it through with luggage. I did everything but chain it to my wrist…except once.

I had transferred from the University of Arizona Law School to Rutgers School of Law in New Jersey, and after spending the summer with my parents, I was beginning my second year of study. It was only an hour’s drive to my new flat, and so I casually laid the manuscript in the back seat of my father’s car instead of clutching it to my chest as I usually did—and never saw it again. I didn’t miss it at once and when I did, I was in such a state of disbelief that I periodically ransacked my flat for the next six months, convinced that it must be there somewhere and if only I kept hunting, I’d eventually find it.

Well, I didn’t, and to this day I am left with an unsolved mystery. The car was un-tended and unlocked for five minutes at most. After much soul searching, I concluded that one of the children playing out on the lawn must have snatched the notebook on impulse, probably tempted by that bright pink cover. It is either that or vengeful Tudor ghosts and I find it hard to believe that even a Tudor ghost would be lurking in a New Jersey suburb.

The loss of my manuscript was so traumatic that I was unable to write again for almost six years. I developed a case of Writer’s Block only slightly smaller than the Rock of Gibraltar. Eventually the wound healed, though. One day I sat down at the type-writer (yes, it was that long ago) and the words came flowing out in a torrent, no longer a trickle. I set about rewriting my Ricardian novel, this time with copies farmed out to friends, kept in bank vaults, buried in my garden. So this was a story with a happy ending. The book was completed and published in the US and the UK as The Sunne in Splendour.

Ironically enough, I then discovered that my manuscript’s mysterious disappearance was one of those proverbial clouds with a silver lining, for we garnered a great deal of publicity because of the book’s unusual history. I was not sure if journalists naturally sympathized with my loss or if they were merely morbidly curious to meet someone who’d been idiotic enough to make only one copy, but interview requests came fast and furious. The New York Times even did an article about the phenomenon of lost manu-scripts.

Some very well known writers have walked in my shoes. T.E. Lawrence and Ray Bradbury both lost manuscripts. Pearl Buck had one destroyed during a riot in China and she never rewrote it. Ernest Hemmingway’s wife left one of his manuscripts on a Paris train; they were later divorced. What fascinated me the most was learning that so many writers lived with this fear. The New York Times reporter interviewed Joseph Heller, who confided that after completing his novel, Something Happened, he asked his daughter to walk with him to a store where he could photocopy the manuscript. He ex-plained that in case he was struck by a bus, his daughter could then snatch up the precious manuscript from the gutter and save it. Other writers admitted that they stored their manuscripts in safety deposit boxes, even in refrigerators. D. M. Thomas cited the play, Hedda Gabler, where a man went to a brothel, taking his manuscript along and then losing it; it was subsequently burned by Hedda. He told the reporter that the lesson he drew from this mishap was that writers should live pure lives, or at the least, leave the manuscript at home!

We are in another age now, of course. We need never cling to a single copy of a manuscript; with little effort, we can have multiple copies made and stored safely. I am sure that writers the world over sleep soundly at nights, for whoever heard of a computer malfunctioning? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sharon Penman has been hailed by Publishers' Weekly as 'an historical novelist of the first rank'. Her bestselling debut about Richard III, THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR (1982) was a worldwide hit, and her acclaimed Welsh trilogy was similarly successful. WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT (1994) is the first part of the trilogy which this book continues.
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