Time and Chance Hardcover – 1 Mar 2002
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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.
"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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I highly recommend this book, but also do read its predecessor, When Christ and the Saints Slept, this will illuminate the story even more.
Thus, in TIME AND CHANCE, is author Sharon Kay Penman's version of the angry words that compelled four of Henry II's knights to commit one of the most famous assassinations in Western European history, that of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The second in an ostensible series of three works of historical fiction - the last has yet to appear - about the first Plantagenet King of England and his consort, Eleanor of Aquitaine, this volume spans the period 1156 - 1171. Woven into the plot are the four pivotal events (for historians, novelists and screenwriters, at least) of that period: Henry's subjugation of the Welsh king, Owain Gwynedd, Henry's taking of Rosamund Clifford as his mistress, Henry's disastrous relationship with Becket, and the crowning of Henry's oldest son, Young Henry, as Ol' Dad's heir apparent.
Judging from Penman's other novels, she has a fascination with medieval Wales. Here, she fleshes out much of the Owain Gwynedd subplot through a completely fictional character, Ranulf Fitz Roy, carried over from the first book in the series, WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT, which dealt with that period of English civil war before Henry II's accession when his mother Maude, the daughter of Henry I, fought to dethrone the then English monarch, Stephen. As Sharon would have it, Ranulf was an illegitimate son of Henry I by a Welsh mistress, and therefore half-brother to Maude and half-uncle to Henry II. In any case, I accepted his presence in the first book because the main player in the series, Henry II, had yet to take center stage.Read more ›
The story is about the turbulent relationship between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Starting in 1156 the couple have been married for four years. The birth of their sons has ensured the succession to the throne, but civil war has seen the country torn apart.
Henry needs to defend the borders of England against France and Wales, but his most daunting task is his fight with the church to stop them from infringing on his power.
This conflict culminates with his one time friend Thomas Becket, whom Henry has made Archbishop of Canterbury, being murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. (Something that is probably burned on the mind of school children throughout England).
Sharon Penman is not a prolific writer, which is understandable considering the amount of research that must go into each of her books. This book stands out among historical novels.
I had expected to have more emphasis placed on Henry and his flamboyant wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Their lack of confrontation about Rosamund Clifford was a bit anti-climactic to say the least.
Also a good proportion of the book was based around the fictional character of Ranulf Fitz Roy.
In all honesty, it should have been billed as the story of Thomas Becket not the story of Eleanor and Henry.
Other than that, the book reads well and gives you an excellent picture of mediaeval life.
I would definitely recommend this book to all fans of Sharon Penman and historical reading, though I think it has been slightly mis-represented.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Had to wait a few days for product but wad exactly as stated.Published 1 month ago by Caroline Wells
Excellent great read very exciting Sharon is an great writer give you insight of the history as if you where there.Published 6 months ago by Grimsbay
Another excellent book from Sharon Penman, bringing this remote history to life as no other writer can do.Published 11 months ago by Pam
This is an amazing book written about a time which gets alot less notice than other period. Sharon Penman is a complete genius and I devour everything she has every written. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Julia Birkett