I really only started a blog up again because I have seen a lot of other people keep logs of what books they're reading, and it just seems like a lot of fun. So, being a bandwagon jumper, I decided to do it, too. And the first book that is going to be profiled is the one I just finished, because it's very fresh in my mind and we have to start somewhere, right? So here goes:
Title: The Sunne in Splendour
Author: Sharon Kay Penman
# Pages: 931 [whew!]
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Amazon Review available at:
I truly loved this book. I bought it on an impulse at a Borders after-Christmas sale, but never picked it up since it is so VERY long. It was definitely not an easy read- it took me well over a week to get through and it was an emotionally-charged journey the entire way through.
The book is about England's War of the Roses (the tail end), with Kind Edward IV and his brother, King Richard III as the two main characters. Richard, particularly, is the focus. I have never seen Shakespeare's version of Richard III, and now that I've read this book, I have a feeling I will never particularly want to. Penman portrays him as such a sympathetic character that it would be hard for me to ever see him differently. His hunchback was never once mentioned, and the idea of his killing his beloved elder brother's children is proposterous, once you read this book. Penman, as in her Welsh trilogy, makes her characters so wonderfully alive, and so completely true to their setting, that one cannot help but take her view of things to be the "real" view- however flawed that interpretation might be.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a big historical fiction fan, even if the length deters you. I don't know if non-historical fiction fans would really appreciate it as much. Being an anglophile and a history buff myself, this book was right up my alley!
It really causes one to think- history is written by the victors, as the saying goes. In which case, how many things we take to be historical fact are actually factual? How many people could be as heroic, or as villainous, as historical accounts would have us believe? After all, a lot of events that took place hundreds, or even thousands (or even decades ago, really) of years ago can be so diluted or warped over time. It's like a VERY long version of the game Telephone, where what comes out at the end is so very different than what went in at the beginning.
And that, to me, is what makes history fascinating. People think that history is boring because it never changes- but it changes all the time. It's so fluid because it's based so much on perception. Six hundred years ago, anyone going on a Crusade was viewed as a holy person fighting for a just and right cause. Now that person would be viewed as a religious extremist. Separating people racially in the 1950s, or making judgments based on skin color or religion was normal (if not actually spoken about out loud). Now ... very un-PC. So what will things be like years from now? If we were to come back to earth in 200 years and read a chapter from a history book about the early 21st century, would we even recognize what was written there as what we really remember happening? And if not, who would have the skewed version of events? The person who lived through it, clearly a biased party, or the people 200 years later, who only have documentation to go on to make their decisions?
These are the sorts of ideas and thoughts that came into my head while reading The Sunne in Splendour. For that reason alone- that the book has that ability to really make you question what you've learned, and to linger with you far longer than you would ever anticipate- any history lover should read it.