The classic, magnificent bestselling novel about Richard III, now in a special thirtieth anniversary edition with a new preface by the author
In this triumphant combination of scholarship and storytelling, 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.
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 the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.
With revisions throughout and a new author's preface discussing the astonishing discovery of Richard's remains five centuries after his death, Sharon Kay Penman's brilliant classic is more powerful and glorious than ever.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
For many years while she was a student and then a tax lawyer, SHARON KAY PENMAN slowly but steadily worked on a novel about the life of Richard III. After finishing the manuscript, however, her only copy was stolen from her car in a busy parking lot. Penman rewrote the entire novel that would become The Sunne in Splendour. When it was originally published in 1982, she quit her job to write full-time. Penman is the author of eight critically acclaimed historical novels and four medieval mysteries, one of which was a finalist for an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America.
For many years while she was a student and then a lawyer, Sharon Kay Penman slowly but steadily worked on a novel about the life of Richard III. However, after finishing the manuscript, her only copy was stolen from her car in a busy parking lot. Devastated but resolved, Penman rewrote the entire novel, which became The Sunne in Splendour. Originally published in 1982, it became a favorite of readers and critics alike, and she soon quit her job to write full-time. Penman is the author of several critically acclaimed historical novels and medieval mysteries, one of which, The Queen's Man, was a finalist for an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America.
Read an Excerpt
The Sunne in Splendour
By Sharon Kay Penman
Pan McMillanCopyright © 2013 Sharon K. Penman
All rights reserved.
Richard did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods. In the fading light, the trees began to take on unfamiliar and menacing shapes. There was movement in the shadows. Low-hanging branches barred his path; rain-sodden leaves trailed wetly across his cheek. He could hear sounds behind him and kept quickening his pace, until he tripped over the exposed roots of a massive oak and sprawled headlong into the dark. Unknown horrors reached for him, pinning him to the ground. He felt something burn across his neck; his face was pressed into the dampness of the earth. He lay very still but he heard only the unsteady echoes of his own breathing. Opening his eyes, he saw that he had fallen into a thicket, was held captive by nothing more sinister than brambles and branches broken off by the weight of his body.
He was no longer drowning in fear; the wave was receding. In its wake, he felt shame burn his face and was grateful that none had been there to witness his flight. He thought himself to be too old to yield so easily to panic for, in just eight days' time, he would be seven years old. He rolled clear of the bushes and sat up. After a moment's deliberation, he retreated to the shelter of a lightning-scarred beech. Bracing himself against the trunk, he settled down to wait for Ned to find him.
That Ned would come, he did not doubt. He only hoped that Ned would come soon and, while he waited, he tried to keep his mind on daylight thoughts, tried not to think at all about what might be lurking in the dark beyond the beech tree.
He found it hard to understand how so perfect a day would so suddenly sour. The morning had dawned with infinite promise and, when Joan yielded to his coaxing and agreed to take him riding along the wooded trails around Whitcliffe, his spirits had soared skyward. His excitement proved contagious and his pony had responded with unaccustomed élan to his urgings, breaking into a gallop even before they'd passed through the gateway that led from the outer castle bailey.
With Joan trailing him like an indulgent, sedate shadow, he raced the little animal through the village at an exhilarating pace. Circling the market cross twice, he jumped the pony neatly over the ancient dog dozing in the street by Broad Gate and then drew rein just before the small chapel of St Catherine, which stood on Ludford Bridge. As Joan was not yet in sight, he leaned recklessly over the stone arch and tossed a groat down into the currents swirling below. One of the village youths had once assured him that he would gain great good fortune by so doing, and the superstition now became engraved in Richard's faith as Scripture even before the coin sank from sight.
Riders were coming up the road that led south toward Leominster. The leading stallion was white, marked with a queer dark star; the favourite mount of Richard's favourite brother. Richard sent his pony towards them at a breakneck run.
Ned wore no armour and the wind was whipping his sun-streaked tawny hair about like straw. He towered above his companions, as always; Richard had seen few men as tall as Ned, who stood three full fingers above six feet. He was Earl of March, Lord of Wigmore and Clare, eldest of the four sons of the Duke of York. At seventeen, Ned was, in Richard's eyes, a man grown. On this summerlike September morning there was no one he would rather have encountered. Had Ned permitted it, Richard would happily have trailed after him from dawn till dusk.
Richard thought Joan was pleased to see Ned, too. Her face was suddenly the colour of rose petals and she was looking at Ned sideways, filtering laughter through her lashes in the way Richard had seen other girls do with Ned. Richard was glad; he wanted Joan to like his brother. What Joan thought mattered a great deal to him. The nurses he'd had in the past, before he'd come this spring to live at Ludlow Castle, had not been at all like Joan; they'd been dour, thin-lipped, without laps or humour. Joan smelled of sunflowers and had burnished bright hair, as soft and red as fox fur. She laughed at his riddles and had enthralling tales to tell of unicorns and knights and crusades into the Holy Land.
Seeing now how she was smiling at Ned, Richard felt first a warm contentment and then incredulous delight, unable to believe Ned was truly going to come with them. But Ned was dismissing their escort, waving his own companions on, and with the prospect dawning of an entire day in the company of these two people he loved, Richard wondered why he had never thought to throw a coin over the bridge before.
The day seemed likely to surpass all his expectations. Ned was in high spirits; he laughed a great deal and told Richard stories of his own boyhood at Ludlow with their brother Edmund. He offered to show Richard how he had fished for eels in the swift-running waters of the Teme and he promised to take Richard to the faire to be held in Ludlow just four days hence. He coaxed Joan into putting aside the head-dress that covered her hair and, with nimble fingers, he adroitly loosened the upswept braids that gleamed like red-gold rope.
Richard was caught up in wonder, captivated by this sudden cascade of bright hot colour; he knew, of course, that red hair was said to be unlucky but he found it difficult to understand why. Joan had smiled and borrowed Ned's dagger to cut a lock, wrapping it in her own handkerchief and tucking it inside Richard's tunic. Ned claimed a lock, too, but Joan seemed strangely reluctant to give it to him. Richard rooted about in Joan's basket while Ned and Joan debated his demand, a murmured exchange that soon gave way to whispers and laughter. When he turned back to them, Richard saw that Ned had a lock of her hair and Joan was the colour of rose petals again.
When the sun was directly overhead, they unpacked the food in Joan's basket, using Ned's dagger to slice the manchet loaf and cut thick pieces of cheese. Ned ate most of the food, and then shared an apple with Joan, passing the fruit back and forth between them and trading bites until only the core remained.
After that, they lay on Joan's blanket and searched the grass about them for lucky clovers. Richard won and was awarded the last of the sugared comfits as his prize. The sun was warm, the air fragrant with the last flowering of September. Richard rolled over onto his stomach to escape Ned who was bent upon tickling his nose with a strand of Joan's hair. After a while, he fell asleep. When he awoke, the blanket had been tucked around him and he was alone. Sitting up abruptly, he saw his pony and Joan's mare still hitched across the clearing. Ned's white stallion, however, was gone.
Richard was more hurt than alarmed. He didn't think it was quite fair for them to go off and leave him while he slept, but adults were often less than fair with children and there was little to be done about it. He settled down on the blanket to wait for them to come back for him; it never for a moment occurred to him that they wouldn't. He rummaged in the basket, finished what was left of the manchet bread and, lying on his back, watched clouds forming over his head.
Soon, however, he grew bored and decided it was permissible to explore the clearing while he awaited their return. Much to his delight, he discovered a shallow stream, a narrow ribbon of water that wound its way through the grass and off into the surrounding trees. Lying flat on his stomach by the bank, he thought he could detect silvery shadows darting about in the icy ripples but, try as he might, he was unable to capture even one of the ghostly little fish.
It was as he was lying there that he saw the fox; on the other side of the stream, watching him with unblinking golden eyes, so still it might have been a carven image of a fox rather than one of flesh and blood. Richard froze, too. Less than a fortnight ago, he'd found a young fox cub abandoned in the meadows around the village. For more than a week, he'd tried to gentle the wild creature with limited success and, when he'd carelessly let his mother see the teeth marks in the palm of his hand, she'd given him the choice of freeing it or drowning it. Now he felt a throb of excitement, an absolute certainty that this was his former pet. With infinite care he sat up, searched for stepping-stones to cross the stream. The fox faded back into the woods but without apparent alarm. Encouraged, Richard followed after it.
An hour later, he was forced to concede that he'd lost both fox and his way. He'd wandered far from the clearing where the horses were hitched. When he shouted for Ned, he heard only the startled rustling of woodland creatures responding to a human voice. As the afternoon ebbed away, the clouds continued to gather; at last all blue was smothered in grey and, soon after, a light warming rain began to fall. Richard had been attempting to chart his path by the sun, knowing that Ludlow lay to the east. Now he was completely at a loss and felt the first stirrings of fear, until, with the coming of dark, he gave way to panic.
He wasn't sure how long he huddled under the beech. Time seemed to have lost its familiar properties, minutes to have lengthened into unrecognizable proportions. He tried counting backwards from one hundred, but there were queer gaps in his memory, and he found himself fumbling for numbers he should have known without hesitation.
'Dickon! Shout if you can hear me!'
Relief rose in Richard's throat with the intensity of pain. 'Here, Edmund, I'm here!' he cried and, within moments, he was being lifted up onto his brother's horse.
With one arm holding Richard securely in the saddle, Edmund skilfully turned his mount, gave the animal its head to find its way through the thick tangle of underbrush. Once they emerged into a splash of moonlight, he subjected Richard to a critical appraisal.
'Well, you're bedraggled enough, in truth! But are you hurt, Dickon?'
'No, just hungry.' Richard smiled, somewhat shyly. Edmund, who was sixteen, was not as approachable as Ned, was much more apt to react with impatience or, when provoked, with a quick cuff around the ears.
'You owe me for this, little brother. I assure you I've more pleasant ways to pass my nights than prowling the woods for you! The next time you take it into your head to run away, I rather think I'll wait and let the wolves find you first.'
Richard could not always tell when Edmund was serious. This time, however, he caught a telltale glint, knew Edmund was teasing, and laughed.
'There are no wolves ...' he began, and then the import of Edmund's words struck him.
'I didn't run away, Edmund. I got lost following my fox. ... You remember, the one I tamed. ... Whilst I was waiting for Ned to come back ...' His words trailed off; he looked sharply at Edmund, chewing his lip.
'I should have guessed,' Edmund said softly, and then, 'That damned fool. When he knows how our father feels about taking our pleasures with the women of the household!' He broke off, looked down at Richard with a fleeting smile.
'You do not have any idea what I'm talking about, do you? Just as well, I daresay.'
He shook his head. Richard heard him repeating, 'The damned fool,' under his breath and, after a while, Edmund laughed aloud.
They rode in silence for a time. Richard had understood more than Edmund realized, knew that Ned had somehow done something that would much displease their father.
'Where is he, Edmund?' he asked, sounding so forlorn that Edmund ruffled his hair in a careless gesture of consolation.
'Looking for you, where else? He sent your Joan back to the castle for help when dark came and they still could not find you. We've had half the household scouring the woods for you since dusk.'
Silence fell between them again. When Richard was beginning to recognize landmarks, knew they would soon be in sight of Ludford Bridge, he heard Edmund say thoughtfully, 'No one knows yet what happened this afternoon, Dickon. No one has talked to Ned yet, and the girl was so distraught it was hard to get anything sensible from her. We just assumed you took off on a lark of your own.' He hesitated and then continued, still in the unfamiliar yet intriguing confidential tones of one adult to another.
'You know, Dickon, if our lord father were to think that Ned had left you alone in the meadows, he'd be none too happy about it. He'd be most wroth with Ned, of course. But he'd blame your Joan, too, I fear. He might even send her away.'
'No!' Richard twisted in the saddle to look up at his brother. 'Ned did not leave me alone,' he said breathlessly. 'He did not, Edmund! I ran after the fox, that's all!'
'Well then, if that be true, you need not worry about Ned or Joan. After all, if the fault was yours, none could blame Ned, could they? But you do understand, Dickon, that if the fault was yours, you'll be the one to be punished?'
Richard nodded. 'I know,' he whispered, and turned to gaze into the river currents flowing beneath the bridge, where he'd sacrificed a coin so many eventful hours ago, for luck.
'You know, Dickon, I've been meaning to ask you. ... Would you like me to make you a wooden sword like the one George has? I cannot promise you when I'll get around to it, mind you, but. ...'
'You do not have to do that, Edmund. I'd not tell on Ned!' Richard interrupted, sounding somewhat offended, and hunched his shoulders forward involuntarily as the walls of the castle materialized from the darkness ahead.
Edmund was distinctly taken aback and then bit back a grin. 'My mistake, sorry!' he said, looking at his brother with the bemused expression of an adult suddenly discovering that children could be more than nuisances to be tolerated until they were old enough to behave as rational beings, could even be distinct individuals in their own right.
As they approached the drawbridge that spanned the moat of lethal pointed stakes, torches flared to signal Richard's safe return, and by the time Edmund passed through the gatehouse that gave entry into the inner bailey, their mother was awaiting them upon the ramp leading up into the great hall. Reining in before her, Edmund swung Richard down and into her upraised arms. As he did, he flashed Richard a grin and Richard was able to derive a flicker of comfort from that, the awareness that he, for once, had won Edmund's unqualified approval.
* * *
Richard was sitting on a table in the solar, so close to the east-wall fireplace that the heat from its flames gave his face a sunburnt flush. He winced as his mother swabbed with wine-saturated linen at the scratches upon his face and throat, but submitted without complaint to her ministrations. He was rather pleased, in fact, to command her attention so thoroughly; he could remember few occasions when she had treated his bruises with her own hand. Generally this would have been for Joan to do. But Joan was too shaken to be of assistance. Eyes reddened and swollen, she hovered in the background, from time to time reaching out to touch Richard's hair, as tentatively as if she were daring a liberty that was of a sudden forbidden.
Richard smiled at her with his eyes, quite flattered that she should have been crying so on his behalf, but she seemed little consoled by his sympathy and when he'd explained, rather haltingly, to his mother that he'd become separated from Ned and Joan in pursuit of his fox cub, Joan inexplicably began to cry again.
'I heard you're to be locked in the cellar under the great hall as your punishment ... in the dark with the rats!'
His brother George had sidled nearer, awaiting the chance to speak as soon as their mother moved away from the table. He was watching Richard now with intent blue-green eyes, and Richard tried to conceal his involuntary shudder. He had no intention of letting George know he had a morbid horror of rats, aware that if he did, he was all too likely to find one in his bed.
Edmund came to his rescue, leaning over George to offer Richard a sip from his own cup of mulled wine.
'Mind your mouth, George,' he said softly. 'Or you might find yourself taking a tour of the cellar some night.'
George glared at Edmund but did not venture a response, for he was not all that certain Edmund wouldn't, if sufficiently provoked, follow through with his threat. Playing it safe, he held his tongue; although still a month shy of his tenth birthday, George had already developed a sophisticated sense of self-preservation.
Setting Edmund's cup down so abruptly that wine sloshed over onto the table, Richard slid hastily to the floor. He had at last heard the one voice he'd been waiting for.
Edward was dismounting before the round Norman nave that housed the chapel named for St Mary Magdalene. He saw Richard as the boy bolted through the doorway of the solar and in three strides he covered the ground between them, catching Richard to him in a tight, bone-bruising embrace and then laughing and swinging the youngster up into the air, high over his head.
'Jesú, but you did give me some bad moments, lad! Are you all right?'
Excerpted from The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. Copyright © 2013 Sharon K. Penman. Excerpted by permission of Pan McMillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface to the 2013 Edition,
Author's Original Note: 1982,
Book One: Edward,
Book Two: Anne,
Book Three: Lord of the North,
Book Four: Richard, by the Grace of God,
Also by Sharon Penman,
Reading Group Guide
A glorious novel of the controversial Richard III---a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history
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 the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.
This magnificent retelling of his life is ?lled with all of the sights and sounds of battle, the customs and lore of the ?fteenth century, the rigors of court politics, and the passions and prejudices of royalty.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read The Sunne in Splendour before reading Shakespeare's Richard III. In my Shakespeare class this year in college I found myself defending Shakespeare's villain because I had grown so attached to the portrayal of Richard in Penman's novel. It is evident that the author did an incredible amount of historical research to bring the characters and their world to life. I am addicted to historical fiction, particularly when set in England. This book has been one of my all time favorites for years!
I've just finished reading this book for the 3rd time and I was as enthralled and as eager to turn the pages as I was when I read it the first time! It is a story of political wars, love relationships, intrigue and mystery during the 15th century reign of the Plantangenets. The story so vividly brings to life the era and the people of that time you will find it hard to put it down! It is the best historical novel I've yet to read.
An excellent novel about two Kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III. I first got interested in Richard III in 2000 when I read a work by Bertram Fields about the princes in the Tower, whom Richard is accused of murdering. After reading what Fields had to say pro and con, I was satisfied that he was innocent. There has been much discussion about the Shakespearean version, taken as it was from very biased sources--people who hated Richard and who demonstrably lied about him. Sharon Penman's novel argues convincingly for his innocence, mostly from his character and the behavior of his peers...including some who were his enemies. She portrays a good man caught in an intolerable conflict of interest and loyalties, stumbling with much self-searching through a quagmire of problems and pitfalls. She does it so well that at times I was teary-eyed. She's done her historical homework very well, and the people who emerge from her pages are unforgettable. There's love, war and betrayal in abundance...not to mention a great deal of information about the Wars of the Roses. I loved this book!
This book is very compelling. It shows the truth within Richard III that goes against the play of Shakespeare. Showing him as a shy,honest, and honorable man. If one loves English history, then this is one page turner. It is very detailed in war. Not only mentioning Richard III but the people around him. What really did happen
This is my favorite historical fiction book. Anyone interested in War of the Roses or Richard III must read this book!
Not a five star for a few reasons, but a good read nonetheless. The fifth star is for debunking Shakespeare's ridiculous character assassination. Too bad most people will never read this, but carry the image of Richard as a murderous, shrivel armed hunchback.
I've read the Welsh Princes trilogy and the trilogy on Henry II and Eleanor - and this book like Penman's others, do not disappoint. Her take on Richard III is so different than others I've read - she weaves the fiction into the historical facts into incredible stories that gives one a great understanding of what was happening during that time period. The style I like most about Penman is the fact that she doesn't take "creative license" like so many do and when she does, she will tell you why she did. I've said for a very long time - Alison Weir, Bernard Cornwell and Sharon Kay Penman's books should be required reading. You can only glean so much in a classroom or a history book and it covers so little - but the books - the novels about the history itself makes the history itself so much easier to understand. Penman is wonderful.
Regardless of your opinion of Richard III and his reign, if you enjoy excellent historical fiction, you will enjoy this book. The historical details, the characterization, the story, the writing; everything about this book is tremendous. You'll become so lost in the people, period, and story that you won't want it to end.
From my reading of this book, Richard was the real sunne--not Edward. Richard was loyal to his family and to York. Had he been more politically expedient perhaps history would have been rewritten. But such acts would have been contrary to his moral being. One could go on forever as to why the circumstances of the time and the personalities of Edward, Richard And George caused this true tragedy.
Sharon Kay Penman is a master storyteller. She weaves a rich tapestry of characters and brings them to life. This was my first encounter and introduction to her writing style. It takes a while to get into the book and get a grip on the various characters however, I highly recommend this book as well as The Reckoning. Once you start them, they are hard to put down.
I am convinced Shakespeare's Richard III is nothing more than a villainous attempt at political correctness. The author's apologia will leave readers asking, "Indeed, why did Henry Tudor never charge King Richard III with the murders?" By the book's end, readers will also hate the Woodvilles and Stanleys, which is what these noble families deserve.
I remember reading this book years ago and I was completely captivated by it. For once, I got to 'see' Richard III's side and his accounts of his life and love for his older brother and his brother's children. Not the cruel portrayal that I've always heard about. I donated this book to the library before I moved out of state but I do believe that I will get this book again because it was so good and so enjoyable. If Sharon's other books are as good and enjoyable as this one is, I'm really looking forward to reading them too. I really love stories like these.
I must have read close to 100 books to research my own historical novels, but THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR was the most beautifully written. I was especially touched by the emotional scenes between Richard and Anne and never saw them portrayed so lovingly. A true masterpiece I recommend to any Richard III sympathizer or lover of Plantagenet history.
I put off reading this book because it was about the Wars of the Roses and I thought learning about it would be quite daunting. I knew absolutely nothing about this period. I quickly became engrossed. My husband is a history major and reads only non-fiction. After reading this book, my grasp of the Wars of the Roses far surpassed his. Reading this book felt like being in the presence of Richard III and Edward IV and watching history unfold. Sharon Kay Penman is my favorite author and this book is my favorite book. I can not recommend it highly enough. I have read it several times and I think I enjoy it more each time. I plan to read it again.
A really good read. Enjoyed it a lot. While I was reading this book the body of King Richard III was found, and it brought to life the story of this king. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this book.
This story was engaging and intense, Sharon Kay Penman follows history and weaves it into a story you want to read, know, and tell everyone about. You come away feeling as if you walked through time onto the battlefields and into the heart of the castles and people of the time. History is often one dimensional, a ruler is good or bad, but Ms. Penman reminds us that nothing is as uncomplicated as that, each step a monarch makes has a multitude of consequences and someone will always loose due to them. Does that make the king unredeemable? She lets you decide and makes it entertaining while you are at it.
Wonderfully written, beautifully portrayed. This novels is an awesome perspective on King Richard and one I choose to hold above others I've read about him. In comparing other novels by different authors, I find S.K. Penmans arguments and opinions much more compelling and believeable than all the others. Because of this novel, I am now a fan of King Richards reign.
I really felt for the guy. Long story but it needed to be. I have an entirely new view on Richard. History Fiction buffs will enjoy.
Most of us have a preconceived opinion of Richard III. Be it of a good man, victim of the circumstances, or of an evil being who wouldn't hesitate to murder his own flesh and blood to usurp a throne that didn't belong to him. But the truth is that Richard was a man of his time, one who, to his misfortune, lacked the 'sun' personality, character and appearance of his brother Edward. Is this a crime? To Richard it was. But this book is not only about Richard, the last of the Plantagenet kings. It is also about Edward IV, George of Clarence, the Earl of Warwick, Anne Neville . . . It is about a fascinating time in history. I read this book a long time ago (I have read everything Ms. Penman has written) and enjoyed it so much that I would like every reader out there to share in my experience. Don't miss this book, it is the best of the historic fiction genre.
I have just finished reading this book for the third time and find it impossible to put it down. Mrs. Penman brings each person alive and full of passion. I've always had a soft spot for Richard III, finding it difficult to believe that a man could do a lot of good for the first 31 years of his life and then turn into a monster the last 2 years. My first Penman book was Falls The Shadow and before I had that finished I was out looking for al of her books that I could find and each of these have been read 3 times. I've just ordered her last 2 books. I highly recommend her books to any one that loves history.
Certainly the most complete look at Richard III in historical fiction. Edward IV, also for that matter. The effort in research is tremendous and helps to dispel the previously wrong notions of Richard as an evil hunchback. Here, he is the hero, although a tragic one.
Okay Ms. Penman, I¿m sure you¿re not reading this but, just in case you are, may I say that you rock.¿The Sunne in Splendor¿ is an historical novel of over 900 pages, spanning nearly the entire life of England¿s Richard III, and it held my rapt attention for the entire book. In fact, I picked it up because I wanted to alternate something with more of a narrative with another book I was reading. It did not alternate well, because I basically dropped the other (quite good as well) book until I was completely done with ¿The Sunne in Splendor.¿Besides focusing on Richard III, ¿The Sunne in Splendor¿ tells the story of the War of the Roses, although primarily from the Yorkist perspective. From St. Albans to Bosworth Field, we are privy to the entire scope of this conflict, gaining along the way information about its origin.Perhaps the most impressive thing about the successfully ambitious ¿The Sunne in Splendor¿ is that it was Penman¿s first novel, written over 25 years ago. It has amazing depth both of information and of character for a first published novel.Sad thing about ¿The Sunne in Splendor.¿ I was unable to put it down, particularly near the end, and I carried it into a restaurant my husband and I were in on a trip last weekend. After finishing the book, I set it down next to him on the windowsill to actually eat the food the waiter had brought to our table. Thirty or so minutes into our 45 minute drive back to where we were staying, we both realized that I had left the book on the table (thank goodness I had finished it!). It was a used copy anyway, but I would have liked to keep it. I guess it is time to add it to my BookMooch list and hope to obtain another copy.Anyway, loved ¿The Sunne in Splendor¿ and Ms. Penman is now 2 for 2 with me (¿The Devil¿s Brood¿ was also fantastic), so I will be actively seeking out basically everything else she¿s ever written.
This was my first Penman book, and it made me a true fan. I have since read everything she has written and look forward to each new book. The Sunne in Splendour revolves around the War of Roses and thebeginning of the House of Tudor. Penman's ability to draw realistic characters and place them into a well known story is what makes her such a great story teller. This book portrays Richard in a much kinder light than most post-Tudor histories. It led me to look into the history of Richard to see if he was really the terrible villain he has come down to us as.
I did not want this book to end! This was a fantastic historical fiction where everything was done right - not too many extraneous "made-up" characters, very well researched, full of drama and intrigue. You don't really need to make-up things to make the British royals any more interesting than they are and I'm pleased that Penman didn't go down that road. The story focuses on Richard III, but begins during the War of the Roses. It then follows him through his brother King Edward's reign, finishing with Penman's take on the princes in the tower. The story is extremely kind to Richard, painting him as a very likable and pitiable character. This ain't your Shakespeare's Richard III. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in historical fiction - and since Penman was so well-researched and used those facts in her story, you might even learn a thing or two.
This is a biographical novel of Richard III of England. First thing you should know is this isn't the Richard of Shakespeare. It's not even the Richard most historians accept, although it's a portrait I was softened up for long before I first read this by the historical novels of Rosemary Hawley Jarman (particularly her The King's Grey Mare about Edward IV's queen, Elizabeth Woodville), the famous novel of mystery great Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time which has her fictional sleuth investigate the true character of Richard, and Elizabeth Peters The Murders of Richard III. As far as I know, historians still believe in the villainous uncle painted by the Tudors who they claim killed his young nephews whose throne he supposedly usurped. Goodness knows that when I took English History at Columbia University, my British professor was scornful Richard could be seen otherwise. But if you can keep an open mind, well, it's certainly impossible I think not to fall in love with Penman's Richard, who we meet as a boy of seven. Penman writes a beguiling, well-researched historical tapestry that I found engrossing and moving. I'm a fan of her writing in general. Not just in this novel, but her Here Be Dragons about medieval Wales are among my top favorite historical novels. Her characters feel both true to their time but fleshed out and real, and she gives their tragedies an excruciating poignancy.I also like that she ends her novels with Author's Notes that untangle the history from the fiction and explain her liberties with what is known, the accepted view of historians and her rationale. This book is obviously well-researched and thought out, whatever you might think of her controversial take. (And my friends out there who know I have a weakness for maligned characters? Well, I think the defenses of Richard III by authors like Tey, Jarman and Penman definitely gave me a soft spot for them and a willingness to look beyond appearances and suspect there might be more to history than what we find in textbooks--or college history classes.)