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When Christ and His Saints Slept [Hardcover]

Sharon Penman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Oct 1994
After the completion of her Welsh trilogy with "The Reckoning", Sharon Penman moves to a new set of characters and to the civil war in twelfth-century England to explore the long conflict between Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Maude, to win the English throne.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd (27 Oct 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718135857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718135850
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 758,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an American of Irish-English-Welsh heritage, and I currently live in New Jersey, although many of my readers imagine I am happily dwelling upon a Welsh mountaintop--but no such luck. I was once a tax lawyer, which I looked upon as penance for my sins. Like most writers, I was born with a love of the written word, although I never expected to be able to support myself as a writer; when you read about starving artists in their garrets, most of them have starving writers as roommates. But I was very lucky and I have been blessed to make my living as a writer for the past twenty-seven years or so. All of my novels--eleven at last count--are set in the Middle Ages, and focus upon England's most colorful dynasty, the Plantagenets. It is almost as if they lived their dramatic and often wildly improbable lives with future historical novelists in mind, and I am very grateful to them--especially to the Angevins,Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their equally famous children, known to their contemporaries as the Devil's Brood.

Product Description

About the Author

Sharon Penman is one of the most popular historical novelists writing today. Her bestselling story of Richard III, The Sunne in Splendour, was published in 1982 and her acclaimed Welsh trilogy, Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, was similarly successful. Time and Chance is the second in a trilogy that opened with When Christ and His Saints Slept (1994). Sharon Penman has travelled widely on both sides of the Atlantic researching her work. She lives in New Jersey. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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The ship strained at its moorings, like a horse eager to run. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last 4 Mar 2013
By Hiraethus o Gymru VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
I have all Sharon Penman's novels in paper form. To be able to put another on my kindle is a big plus. There are no more stimulating novels in existence and to be able to carry them when I go abroad with only the weight of my kindle is brilliant. This novel vividly brings to life a period of English history from the reign of Henry I, covering the civil war between Henry's daughter, Mathilda, and her cousin Stephen who usurped her throne, to the commencement of the reign of Henry II, Mathilda's son, the first Plantagenet king. The accuracy of the narrative, thanks to Sharon's brilliant research, is exceptional, and a pleasure for the discerning history buff. At last Sharon's books are coming to the UK in kindle, and I thank the publishers for this.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great historical novels 14 May 2009
I hesitated over this book - unsure of the subject matter and initially daunted by both the size of the book and the style of writing. In addition I was not at all sure how I would feel about the way the story moves on jumping through the months/years/decades. I found almost at once the style to be easy and I soon got the hang of how the chapters flowed, so much so that I just couldn't put the book down.

There was a large cast of characters but the author was very good at reminding us from time to time who was who and the family tree and other information at the beginning was very useful. I hate historical novels that place 21st Century values in the past, but I didn't think it happened here - I felt the more sympathetic characters had very much a 12th Century feel.

Incredibly well researched some of the events were so bizarre and coincidences so unbelievable that they had to be true as no author could make them up and get away with it - a point the author makes herself at the end. The maturing of the characters over time was excellent - on occasions it was sad to lose some of them and in a couple of cases shocking.

The whole book was so well researched and the story worked so well with the history that it strongly re-enforces the misconception that the past was a far less complex country. I am so glad there are two further books in the series - I need to spend a short while back in the 21st Century to get my bearings again, but can't wait to take my next trip back to the 12th.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Often the picture painted of medieval ages is a romantic one: knights in shinning armor following a strict code of chivalry and enjoying sumptuous banquets in pristine castles. The reality is much more sobering.

When King Henry I died in 1135, Stephen - grandson of William the Conqueror - grabbed the throne from Henry's daughter Matilda leading to an extended period of civil war. It was a period of lawlessness descended upon the countryside, endangering the safety of peasant and noble alike. This lasted almost twenty years ending only with the death of Stephen and the rise of Henry II to the throne. It was a time when Christ and his saints were asleep, truly a dark time in England's history.

After having read the scholarly study on King Stephen I read Penman's novel. If it comes to Penman I am rather biased as I believe she is a wonderful, extremely sensitive author with a unique talent. And this very novel is no exception. She re-creates as usual a long gone time, it is colorful, and it is lively, amazing and sad: the terrible reality what lawlessness means hits home. Civil war is a horror.

The central figures - the Empress Mathilda and King Stephen - are well described and neither is cast in just one role: either evil or good. Both have their good points and their flaws. Their lives were intertwined; from friends to foes their way could be described. And in the end neither won: Stephen rules as king, a crown Mathilda would never wear, but in the end Mathilda's son - Henry II - succeeded.

Penman's novels are a mere pleasure to read. Do not miss it!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWER
truly a time when Christ and his Saints slept. A fascinating, complicated tale with a huge cast of characters, many with similar names. It was hard to keep track of at times, a list of who's who at the front of the book would have been helpful, as SKP did in the next book, Time and Chance.

The characters were well written, and I appreciated that neither Stephen (who did steal the crown) nor Maude were written as black and white/evil vs. saint -- all had flaws in their characters. Adding the fictional Ranulf gave a nice perspective to the tale. I also appreciated the way the author brought us the viewpoints of the common folk, who didn't care who ruled, as long as there was peace.

The first 2/3 of the book are mostly about the civil conflict between the two parties and can drag on a bit, but the last part when Henry started coming into power and married Eleanor of Aquitaine the sparks were fairly flying off the pages. I am now starting on Time and Chance and eagerly awaiting more on this dynamic pair.

As I said, a great book to read. It isn't quite Here be Dragons, et al but enjoyable all the same.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful start to a wonderful series 12 Sep 2013
Stephen of Blois is born in 1096, a nephew to the English King Henry, the first of that name. In 1120 he boards a ship called "The White Ship", accompanying the heir to the English throne. The ship sinks crossing the English chanel. Everybody on board die. End of story.

But that is not what happened.

Stephen didn't board "The White Ship" that day. He didn't die. And when his uncle the king did, some years later, he took the crown belonging to the king's daughter Maude, for himself. The rightful heir, Maude did not take the news lightly and so began a war that lasted years, a period in England during which, the people insisted, Christ and all his saints slept.

There are a lot of bookwriters in this world. It's one of the reasons the general quality of literature is dropping, I think - one no longer needs an open mind, have original ideas, do long research, learn from mistakes - all one needs is a PR person.
That's why, in the gloom that is world literature, authors like Sharon Kay Penman shine like a bright beacon of hope, a light to stave off despair in readers.
One of the many things that set her apart is the ability to constantly improve her skills - it is but the second book of hers I read and all of the things that bothered me in "The Sunne in Splendour" (the first one she wrote) and all the good things I wanted to see more of - are absent/present in this, the first installment of the Plantagenets series, containing, so far, 4 books*.

Of the things I love best about Penman's writing is her ability to recreate an irresistible sense of time and place, one dives into the book and doesn't emerge until the final page. She writes not about characters, but the life and times of people, even the fictional ones, and the reader has no way of differentiate between fact and fiction.

I heartily recommend this book and this series to anyone who enjoys well written, classic historical fiction.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book.
This is excellent account of the civil war written beautifully by someone who knows her stuff and is a master at storytelling. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Mr. Michael A. Steel
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, if you are a lover of British ...
Excellent read, if you are a lover of British history you will not be able to put this book down
Published 1 month ago by Marjorie Wills
5.0 out of 5 stars must read,
must read ,all three books in trilogy brilliant
Published 1 month ago by Mo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! (but where is part 2?)
Thoroughly enjoyed the re-telling of this period of 'civil war' - great characterisation and well paced. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr G Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book
Published 1 month ago by mr d m mcdonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fabulous book - it's my all time fave - I've read it 3 times and will def read again
Published 2 months ago by Occasional Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful novel
Wow. This novel didn't quite pull on my heartstrings the way "Here Be Dragons" did, but nonetheless this was still a wonderful, beautifully written novel. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jennifer Rothwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Historical Novel
One of the best historical novels I have read for some time. The author keeps close to historical fact without impeding the pace of the novel. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Plato
5.0 out of 5 stars Un-putdownable
This was one of those books that I couldn't put down. It nicely bought history to life by giving personality to all of the historical figure. It was very cleverly written.
Published 2 months ago by Mr M Tannatt-Nash
5.0 out of 5 stars History come alive.
What a fantastic read! Medieval life in all of its glory (if that is the correct word). How can one review, as an ordinary reader, such a magnificent and erudite tome? Read more
Published 3 months ago by Wotan
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