Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

"In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III --vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower--from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called the War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

No doubt about it, Sharon Kay Penman is completely deserving of her reputation as a meticulous researcher and dedicated historian. In this revisionist version of the life and times of Richard III, Penman blends the facts with convincing evidence that this much-maligned historical figure was in actuality an admirable man, devoted to his family, highly principled, and incapable of carrying out the murders of his nephews (the princes in the tower).

I found this book to be very enlightening and enriching, challenging me as I read it in chunks and then taking some time to reflect. (I even kept a little notebook handy to jot down important notes about the plot and the many historical figures involved in the War of Roses.) I consider myself to be a general reader of historical fiction, so my background in this period is very limited. I'm not a history major, nor am I well-versed in any particular English historical period, so perhaps this novel would have moved along faster if I was better informed about the details of the reign of Edward IV and Richard III. It was daunting in the amount of political detail and history -- a span of thirty-three years -- and it took me a while to really hit my stride with this book. The book is divided into four sections, and it wasn't until the last portion of the book that I really began to feel a connection to it. Overall, I'm very glad to have read The Sunne in Splendour , and I plan on reading Penman's Here Be Dragons in the future.

On a side note, I was watching an interview with Sharon Kay Penman and was fascinated (and horrified) to learn that while she was in the process of writing this novel, the original manuscript of The Sunne in Splendour (representing several years of research and writing) was stolen from her car! (She jokingly blamed it on Tudor ghosts, but admitted that she was actually devastated by the incident.) Here is part 1 of the interview where she discusses her mystery books and her historicals.

4/5 stars

Title: The Sunne in Splendour
Author: Sharon Kay Penman
931 pages
St. Martin's Press
historical fiction


Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I loved, loved, loved this book! It made me a believer of Richard III, and I admit, a fangirl of Edward IV! LOL! He must have been irresistible! I was absolutely amazed to hear she had lost her original manuscript too - I can't believe she was able to rewrite - long before the days of computers! I would have just sobbed and given up! I'm so glad she didn't! Glad you liked it!

Joanne said...

Hi, Julie -- Yes, I was surprised to see that this novel was as much about Edward as it was about Richard. It really helped me to understand the whole controversy surrounding Edward's sons and why his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid, thus removing their sons' right to the throne. Very, very interesting!

Unknown said...

I have yet to read any of Pennman's books but I have heard they are great. Regarding this period in history, I am like you, I don't know a lot about it, so it will probably be a lot of looking up stuff for me. Thanks for the great review.

~Heather @ www.themaidenscourt.blogspot.com

Joanne said...

Hi, Heather -- Thanks for stopping by. Sharon Kay Penman is a must-read for fans of historical fiction; it seems like everyone else has read all of her books and I'm just now getting around to reading them. Hope you enjoy them!

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