When Christ and His Saints Slept

When Christ and His Saints Slept

Audiobook(MP3 on CD - Unabridged)

$41.23 $49.99 Save 18% Current price is $41.23, Original price is $49.99. You Save 18%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, July 25

Overview

"A COMPELLING, WELL-WRITTEN EPIC. . .Penman is an accomplished novelist and certainly has staked a claim to medieval England as her literary fiefdom."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England's King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry's beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.
Sharon Kay Penman's magnificent fifth novel summons to life a spectacular medieval tragedy whose unfolding breaks the heart even as it prepares the way for splendors to come--the glorious age of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Plantagenets that would soon illumine the world.
"[A] marvelous medieval pageant of a novel. . .Another jewel in [Penman's] already glittering crown."
--The Orlando Sentinel
"Penman once again tells a tale of kings and queens, singular destinies, and double-crosses. . . .[She] inventively animates a large cast [and] continues to base her narrative on the firm ground of fact."
--Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541460263
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 02/12/2019
Series: Plantagenets Series , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Sharon Kay Penman is the author of six 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.

Read an Excerpt

When Christ and his Saints Slept


By Sharon Kay Penman

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1995 Sharon Kay Penman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3952-2



CHAPTER 1

Barfleur, Normandy

November 1120


The ship strained at its moorings, like a horse eager to run. Berold stopped so abruptly that he almost collided with a passing sailor, for in all of his sixteen years, he'd never seen a sight so entrancing. The seneque seemed huge to him, at least eighty feet long, with a towering mast and a square sail striped in vertical bands of yellow and scarlet. The hull was as sleek as a swan and just as white, and brightly painted shields hung over the gunwales, protecting the oarsmen from flying spray. Above the mast flew several streaming pennants and a silver and red banner of St George. The harbor resembled a floating forest, so many masts were swaying and bobbing on the rising tide. More than twenty ships were taking on cargo and passengers, for the royal fleet of the English King Henry, first of that name since the Conquest, was making ready to sail. But Berold had eyes only for the White Ship.

"Smitten, are you, lad?" Startled, Berold spun around, found himself looking into eyes narrowed and creased from searching out distant horizons and squinting up at the sun. The sailor's smile was toothless but friendly, for he'd recognized a kindred soul in this gangling youngster swaddled in a bedraggled sheepskin cloak. "Not that I blame you, for she's a ripe beauty for certes, a seaworthy siren if ever I saw one."

Berold was quick to return the sailor's smile. "That she is. The talk in the tavern was all of the White Ship. Wait till I tell my brother that I saw the most celebrated ship in the English king's fleet!"

"Did you hear how her master came to the king? His father, he said, had taken the king's father to England when he sailed to claim a crown in God's Year, 1066. He begged for the honour of conveying the king as his father had done. King Henry had already engaged a ship, but he was moved by the man's appeal, and agreed to let his son, Lord William, sail on the White Ship. When word got out, all the other young lordlings clamored to sail on her, too. There — down on the quay — you can see them preening and strutting like so many peacocks. The dark one is the Earl of Chester, and yonder is the Lord Richard, one of the king's bastards, and the youth in the red mantle is said to be a kinsman of the German emperor. The king's favorite nephew, the Lord Stephen, is supposed to sail on her, too, but I do not see him yet ... he's one who'd be late for his own wake, doubtless snug in some wanton's bed —"

"I've seen the Lord Stephen, almost as near to me as you are now," Berold interrupted, for he did not want the sailor to think he was an ignorant country churl. "I've dwelled in Rouen for nigh on six months, for my uncle has a butcher's shop and is teaching me his trade. Twice did I see the king ride through the city streets, with Lord Stephen at his side. The people liked Stephen well, for he always had an eye for a pretty lass and he was open-handed with his alms-giving."

"All the way from Rouen, eh? You are the well-traveled one," the sailor murmured, and was amused to see that the boy took his good-natured gibe as gospel truth.

"Indeed, it was not a trek for the faint of heart," Berold agreed proudly. "I wore out two pairs of shoes on the road, got lost in the fog, and was nearly run down by a cart in Bayeux! But I had to get to Barfleur, for I must book passage to England. I have a ... a quest to fulfill."

That caught the sailor's interest; butchers' lads were not likely candidates for pilgrimages or perilous sea voyages. "A quest? Did you swear a holy oath, then?"

Berold nodded solemnly. "My family has long been split asunder, ever since my brother Gerard quarreled with our father, who cursed him for his willfulness and cast him out like Cain. For five winters, we knew not whether he still lived, but then a neighbor's seafaring son came to us at Michaelmas, said he'd seen Gerard in an English town called London. It was the answer to our heartfelt prayers, for my father has been ailing since the summer, suffering from a gnawing pain in his vitals, and he yearns to make peace with his firstborn ere he dies. I swore to my father and to the Father of All that I'd seek out Gerard, fetch him home."

The sailor could not help admiring the boy's pluck, but he suspected that Berold's mission was one doomed to failure. "I wish you well, lad. To tell you true, though, you're not likely to find passage this day. The king's ships are already crowded with his lords, his soldiers, and servants. They'll be taking aboard none but their own."

"I know," Berold admitted. "But God directed me to a tavern where I met Ivo — that's him over there, the one with the eyepatch. We got to talking, and when he learned of my plight, he offered to help. He is cousin to a helmsman on one of the king's ships, and his cousin will get me aboard if I make it worth his while. That must be him coming now, so I'd best be off." With a cheerful wave, he started across the street toward his newfound friends, followed by the sailor's hearty "Go with God, lad!"

"Are you Mauger?" Ivo's cousin ignored Berold's smile, merely grunted as Ivo made the introductions. He was a big-boned man, pockmarked and dour, and Berold was grateful that he had the amiable Ivo to act as go-between.

But Ivo did not seem as affable as he had been in the tavern. "Come on," he said brusquely. Berold had to hasten to keep pace, dodging passersby and mangy, scavenging dogs. A young prostitute plucked at his sleeve, but he kept on going, for she was dirty and very drunk. Although Barfleur was exciting, it was unsettling, too, for it seemed that all he'd heard about the sinfulness of seaports was true. The streets were crowded with quarrelsome, swaggering youths, the taverns were full, and even to Berold's innocent eye, there was a surfeit of whores, beggars, peddlers, and pickpockets. He was indeed fortunate to have found Ivo in this den of thieves and wantons.

They were heading away from the harbor. Berold took one last lingering look at the White Ship, then followed Ivo into the shadows of a narrow, garbage-strewn alley. He'd assumed they were taking a shortcut, but the alley was a dead end. In such close quarters, the stench of urine was overwhelming, and he started to back out, saying politely, "I'll wait whilst you piss." But before he could retreat, a huge hand slammed into the side of his head, and he lurched forward, falling to his knees. His shocked cry was cut off as Mauger slipped a thin noose around his neck, and suddenly the most precious commodity in his world was air. As Berold choked and gasped and tore frantically at the thong, Ivo leaned over him, in his upraised fist an object dark and flat. It was the last thing Berold saw.

He was never to know how long he had been unconscious. At first he was aware only of pain; his head was throbbing, and when he tried to rise, he doubled over, vomiting up his dinner. Groaning, he reached for a broken broom handle, used it for support as he dragged himself upright. Only then did he think of the money he carried in a pouch around his neck, the money meant to pay his passage to England, to bring his brother home. He groped for it with trembling fingers, continued to fumble urgently within his tunic long after he'd realized the pouch was gone. The theft of his father's money was, for Berold, a catastrophe of such magnitude that he was utterly unable to deal with it. What was he to do? Blessed Lady, how could this happen? He'd never be able to go home again, never. How could he face his family after failing so shamefully? Papa would not die at peace, Gerard would never be forgiven, and it was his fault, God curse him, all his fault.

By the time he staggered back into the street, he was so tear-blinded that he never saw the horses — not until he reeled out in front of them. Fortunately, the lead rider was a skilled horseman. He swerved with seconds to spare. So close had Berold come to disaster, though, that the stallion's haunches brushed his shoulder, sent him sprawling into the muddied street.

"You besotted fool! I ought to wring your wretched neck!"

Berold shrank back from this new assault, made mute by his fear. These men who'd almost trampled him were lords. Their fine clothing and swords proclaimed them to be men of rank, men who could strike down a butcher's apprentice as they would a stray dog. The angriest of them was already dismounting, and Berold shuddered, bracing himself for a beating — or worse.

"Use the eyes God gave you, Adam. The lad's not drunk. He's hurt."

The man called Adam was glaring down contemptuously at the cowering boy. "A few more bruises would do him no harm, my lord, might teach him to look where he is going next time." But he'd unclenched his fists, coming to a reluctant halt.

Astounded by the reprieve, Berold scrambled hastily to his feet as his defender dismounted. But he was as wobbly as a newborn colt and would have fallen had the man not grabbed his arm, pulling him toward the shelter of a mounting block.

"You seem bound and determined to get yourself run over, lad. Sit, catch your breath whilst I look at that bloody gash of yours. Ah ... not so bad. You must have a hard head! Were you set upon by thieves?"

Berold nodded miserably. "They took all my money, and now my father will die —" He got no further; to his shame, he began to sob.

Adam grimaced in disgust. They'd already wasted time enough on this paltry knave. It was truly fortunate that his lord showed such boldness on the battlefield, lest men wonder at his womanlike softheartedness. But now that the dolt had bestirred his lord's curiosity, they'd likely be stuck here till sunset, listening to this fool's tale of woe.

Just as he feared, the boy's cryptic remark was bait his lord could not resist. "You'd best tell me what happened," he said, and as Adam fumed, Berold did so. He was fast losing touch with reality. Why should one so highborn pay any heed to him? That this was a great lord, Berold did not doubt; he had never seen anyone so elegant. Shoulder-length flaxen hair that was so shiny and clean no lice would dare to nest in it. A neatly trimmed beard, and a smile that showed white, healthy teeth, not a one broken off or rotted. A brigh-tblue mantle that looked softer than any wool ever spun, luxuriously lined with grey fox fur. Cowhide boots dyed to match, laced all the way to the knee. A hat adorned with a dark-red jewel. Worn at his left hip, as lightly as a feather, a sword Berold doubted he could even lift. He could not begin to imagine what life must be like for this handsome young lord, for there was no earthly bridge between their worlds. And yet there was an odd sense of familiarity about his saviour, as if their paths had crossed ere this. Even as Berold explained haltingly about his father and lost brother and Ivo's foul treachery, he found himself straining to remember. When he did, he was so stunned that he forgot all else, blurting out in one great gasp:

"You are the king's nephew! You are the Lord Stephen!"

Stephen acknowledged his identity with a smile, aware of the impatient muttering of his men but feeling a flicker of pity for this luckless butcher's lad, scared and grass-green and far from home. "Now," he said, "what can we do about you, Berold?" The boy was looking up at him like a lost puppy, eyes filled with silent pleading, forlorn hope. Stephen studied him for a moment more, and then shrugged. Why not?

"Tell me," he said, "how would you like to sail to England on the White Ship?"


STEPHEN had no liking for ships, did not know any man of sense who did; who would willingly seek out the triple perils of storms, shipwrecks, and sea monsters? He was fascinated, nonetheless, by the sight that met his eyes: the English king's fleet, riding at anchor in Barfleur Harbor. They were very like the ships that had carried his grandfather William the Bastard on his invasion of England more than fifty years past, but Stephen neither knew nor cared about that; like most people, he lived for the moment, had no interest in any history not his own. But he enjoyed pageantry, was amused by chaos, and relished turmoil — all of which he found in full measure on this Thursday of St Catherine in Barfleur Harbor.

Up and down the beach, small boats were being launched, ferrying passengers out to the waiting ships. Only those fortunate enough to be traveling on the White Ship or the English king's vessel were spared that wet, rough ride and undignified, hazardous boarding. They had just to venture out onto the quay, then cross a gangplank to the safety of their ship.

Stephen was standing now on that same quay, wanting to bid his uncle Godspeed before they sailed. So far he'd looked in vain for the stout, formidable figure of the king. As he was in no hurry, he was content to loiter there on the pier, bantering with acquaintances and passersby. But his nonchalance camouflaged a soldier's sharp eye, and he alone noticed the small boy tottering toward the far end of the quay. Shoving aside the people in his path, he darted forward, snatching up the child just before he reached the wharf's edge.

The little boy let out a yowl of protest. It subsided, though, as soon as he recognized Stephen, for Ranulf was a sunny-natured child, given to mischief but not tantrums. Stephen had concluded that Ranulf must take after his mother, for not even King Henry's greatest admirers ever claimed he had an amiable temperament.

"Well, look what I caught! What sort of queer fish could this be?" Ranulf was too young to comprehend the joke, for he was barely past his second birthday. Nor did he fully understand his kinship to Stephen. He knew only that Stephen was always kind to him, that Stephen was fun, and he squealed happily now as his cousin swung him high up into the air.

"More," he urged, "more!" But Stephen insisted upon lowering him back onto the quay, for he'd seen the women hastening toward them.

"Ranulf!" Angharad reached them first, with the white-faced nurse just a step behind. Catching her son in a close embrace, she held him until he started to squirm, then turned upon Stephen a torrent of gratitude.

Laughing, he held up his hand to stem the tide. "Lady Angharad, you do me too much credit. The lad was in no real danger. Even if he had taken a tumble into the water, we'd have fished him out quick enough." He was not surprised, though, that his assurances counted for naught; he'd never known a more doting mother than his uncle's young Welsh mistress.

Stephen treated all women with courtesy, felt protective toward most of them. But Angharad, in particular, had always stirred his sense of chivalry. He knew little of her past, only that she'd been brought back by his uncle from one of his campaigns in Wales. She couldn't have been much more than fifteen at the time, and he sometimes wondered how she'd felt about being claimed as a prize of war by an enemy more than thirty years her senior. Stephen had been quite young himself then, and had only a few hazy memories of a timid country lass with nary a word to say for herself, downswept lashes and sidelong glances and a shyness that served as her shield. But in the six years that she'd been at Henry's court, she'd learned to speak French, adopted Norman fashions, and borne Henry two children, a stillborn son and Ranulf.

Stephen knew that most people would envy Angharad, not pity her, for her life held comforts undreamed-of in Wales. The king's concubine would never go hungry, never lack for warm clothes or a soft bed. As tight-fisted as Henry was, he looked after his own, freely acknowledging all his bastard-born children. He was said to have sired at least twenty offspring out of wedlock, and had made brilliant marriages for many of them. Stephen did not doubt Ranulf was fortunate, indeed, that his mother had been fair enough to catch a king's eye. Whether that was true or not for Angharad, too, he had no way of knowing.

Hoisting Ranulf up onto his shoulders, Stephen escorted Angharad and the nurse across the gangplank, found for them a space under the canvas tent, and wished them a safe and speedy journey. Returning to the quay, he was hailed by a husky female voice. "Stephen, you fool! My husband will be here any moment, and when he finds you lusting after me like this, he'll slay us both!"

Stephen bit back a grin. "If ever there were a woman worth dying for, it would be you, my dearest ... dearest ... no, do not tell me! Clemence? No ... Rosamund?"

That earned him a sharp poke in the ribs. "Swine!" She laughed, and he reached out, gave her a hug, for they were kin and could take such liberties without giving rise to gossip.

They were not really related, though, not by blood; it was Amabel's husband, Robert, who was Stephen's cousin. While King Henry provided well for his illegitimate children, he preferred not to do so out of his own coffers. For Robert, his firstborn son, he'd found Amabel Fitz Hamon, daughter of the Lord of Creully, a rich heiress who'd brought Robert the lordship of Glamorgan, the vast Honour of Gloucester. Stephen had recently heard that the king meant to bestow upon Robert, too, the earldom of Gloucester. His was not a jealous nature, but he did begrudge Robert so much good fortune. No man so self-righteous, he thought, deserved an earldom and Amabel and a king's favor, too.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from When Christ and his Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman. Copyright © 1995 Sharon Kay Penman. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

When Christ and His Saints Slept (Eleanor of Aquitaine Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is good not great. I kept looking at what page I was on - it was a little dry. I did finish it - not sorry I read it. I could definately put it down and go do my chores which speaks well for a clean house but not for a book that makes me ignore everything else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took me a month to read however it is a book I will never forget. The story is enchanting and captures you in every way possible. Loved, Loved Loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. I found myself 'googling' different facts and Penman was right on target - she brought the characters to life and with the blend of the historical facts and the fiction added in, I just couldn't put the book down. I can assure you, when you read this book, you feel every battle, seige and the horrors the 12th century could bring in England - and bringing the historical figures to life just made the book a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read any of Ms. Penman's works before this book, but I am certain that I will now go purchase all of her other books! I just finished reading this tale, and I find myself missing the characters! For those of you not interested in history, this book will give you reason to start being interested. As one critic commented, the characters are brought to life and are not merely cardboard cuts outs that most students study in school. I've done a lot of research on the geneological data that she represents in this book, and I have to say she has done an AMAZING job! I am a direct descendant of William de Warenne, so it was fun to read about his life and the characters surrounding him. I tip my hat to you, Ms. Penman, and look forward to reading the rest of your books.
ladylawyer8650 More than 1 year ago
This author was new to me. I depend on readers' reviews before buying a book. Thank all the reviewers for honest assessments of this author and this book. I liked Ranuld best. Poor Maude. Did she have any happiness? King Stephen's character flaw was unfortunate though I did enjoy his company. Henry was Henry, enough said. I have to think hard to remember how the book began, but did it not have a glorious end? Elanore, merely a whisper at first, was in the end loudly proclaimed. Deservedly so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this up from the local bookstore only because it had a reference to my beloved Eleanor of Aquitaine. Instead, I found myself growing to respect another of history's great medieval women. The Empress Matilda and her story is one of the most interesting true, factual histories I have ever studied, and lately I have been doing everything in my power to locate histories of that era (see below), only to discover how closely 'Saints' is to the real evidence (blame me, I know, for not taking Penman's author's note seriously, but trust me, what she did say was true). What amazed me was that this civil war - created by Penman to sound so like a fictionous story - is actually so true! Bravo to Penman.
TravelerWR More than 1 year ago
Well researched. If one is interested in early English @ French history or just early history in general this is a well written book. The reading , at times slows down a bit, but only because of the amount of detail presented. Also because I would Google some of the facts. The life, battles and sieges of 12th England century brings into stark clarity how difficult life was. This is the 2nd book by Penman I have read and look forward to reading the rest.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman features the beginnings of the Plantagenet dynasty. It features the bloody war that raged England between Stephen and his cousin Maude. Stephen steals the crown after King Henry the First's death from Maude, who's the rightful heir to the throne of England. With that main event, you get a lot of war, a lot of betrayal, and a lot of family struggles to keep the crown, or to take it. I strongly recommend studying the family tree first which is gratefully provided in the beginning of the book. That way you can find it who is related to who (you'll find out they are all related somehow) and who is married to who. It may help you to take notes so you'll also know who is who as it does get confusing. Especially in the beginning just when the story starts to develop. There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of characters. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the family tree helped me get through with it and although I didn't take notes, I got the main idea on who's who once the story progresses. To me, it felt like reading a very exciting history book. It feels so historically accurate and everything is rich in detail from the way the characters talk to the way everything is described. The battle sequences are interesting. They do seem real and they seem quick even though the book is filled with battles and wars and seiges. I like them a lot though as it does make you progress through the novel faster and it adds action to the plot. The politics of this book is also interesting. Although there were parts where I was shocked to see betrayals by certain characters yet it adds excitement and intrigue which in turn makes the book historically accurate as well. Besides the battles and the politics, you are also taken to some of the characters' more personal lives and their personal troubles. For example you have the story of Ranulf, who loves Annora who was his betrothed until she got married off to someone else. In turn he does what he can to win her back. It's these mini stories that also help the story go along and it's nice to see these, as it brings more "flesh" and depth to the characters instead of making them flat and cardboard like. What I love the most is the portrayal of women in this book. I love Maude, as she was so strong and determined to continue the war to get her crown back and all of this for her son Henry (the second). You get a lot of strong female characters and how they actually provided the backbone and their never ending support to their husband/son's causes. I liked the portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine despite the myths surrounding her life, I think it was well done and I admired her ability to secure her future without any thought of how others might see her. Basically, you won't see many weepy needy women in this book. They're all a beacon of strength. The only problem I have with this book? just way too many characters to go through and it got a little confusing in the beginning. However once you establish the main players, and how they're involved in the war then it gets easier. As I have mentioned before, perhaps it's wise to take notes, or to take into account the family tree in the beginning. Overall a wonderful book for historical buffs out there, especially those curious or lovers of the Plantagenet Dynasty. This is my first book about them and I don't regret it one bit. I loved the rich history, it was like looking at one very detailed
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every chapter in this book seduces the reader into that complicated maze of English history so smoothly you can't remember the exact moment you became part of it. You just know you are there and you don't want it to end. Great going Sharon Penman!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't finish it.
cuffindell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovers of historical fiction must read Penman's splendid fifth novel, which chronicles one of the bitterest, bloodiest struggles in medieval English and assures her place as one of the finest writers of the genre.
sensitivemuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman features the beginnings of the Plantagenet dynasty. It features the bloody war that raged England between Stephen and his cousin Maude. Stephen steals the crown after King Henry the First's death from Maude, who's the rightful heir to the throne of England. With that main event, you get a lot of war, a lot of betrayal, and a lot of family struggles to keep the crown, or to take it.I strongly recommend studying the family tree first which is gratefully provided in the beginning of the book. That way you can find it who is related to who (you'll find out they are all related somehow) and who is married to who. It may help you to take notes so you'll also know who is who as it does get confusing. Especially in the beginning just when the story starts to develop. There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of characters. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the family tree helped me get through with it and although I didn't take notes, I got the main idea on who's who once the story progresses. To me, it felt like reading a very exciting history book. It feels so historically accurate and everything is rich in detail from the way the characters talk to the way everything is described. The battle sequences are interesting. They do seem real and they seem quick even though the book is filled with battles and wars and seiges. I like them a lot though as it does make you progress through the novel faster and it adds action to the plot. The politics of this book is also interesting. Although there were parts where I was shocked to see betrayals by certain characters yet it adds excitement and intrigue which in turn makes the book historically accurate as well. Besides the battles and the politics, you are also taken to some of the characters' more personal lives and their personal troubles. For example you have the story of Ranulf, who loves Annora who was his betrothed until she got married off to someone else. In turn he does what he can to win her back. It's these mini stories that also help the story go along and it's nice to see these, as it brings more "flesh" and depth to the characters instead of making them flat and cardboard like. What I love the most is the portrayal of women in this book. I love Maude, as she was so strong and determined to continue the war to get her crown back and all of this for her son Henry (the second). You get a lot of strong female characters and how they actually provided the backbone and their never ending support to their husband/son's causes. I liked the portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine despite the myths surrounding her life, I think it was well done and I admired her ability to secure her future without any thought of how others might see her. Basically, you won't see many weepy needy women in this book. They're all a beacon of strength.The only problem I have with this book? just way too many characters to go through and it got a little confusing in the beginning. However once you establish the main players, and how they're involved in the war then it gets easier. As I have mentioned before, perhaps it's wise to take notes, or to take into account the family tree in the beginning. Overall a wonderful book for historical buffs out there, especially those curious or lovers of the Plantagenet Dynasty. This is my first book about them and I don't regret it one bit. I loved the rich history, it was like looking at one very detailed tapestry.
sds6565 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this ponderous, slow moving.
lookingforpenguins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fabulous story of the war for the English/Norman crown between Stephan and Maude. First of two in a series; followed by 'Time and Chance'.
ktleyed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What happens in the 12th century, when the heir to the throne of England dies in the sinking of the fabled White Ship in the English Channel, leaving the throne with no legitimate male heir?Civil War ensues between Maude, the only legitimate heir to King Henry I and King Henry's nephew , Stephen who steals the crown away from Maude. This is the true story of what seems an endless amount of battles and sieges throughout England between the Maude and Stephen factions fighting for the rightful crown of England. This book wasn't bad, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Penman's previous books. It just seemed like one battle after another, with no side seeming to gain the advantage. Hence the title, for this Civil War endured for roughly 15 years when the countryside and towns of England were ravaged by war, with no end in sight. We get a glimpse of Maude and her life most of it unhappy with her husband Geoffrey of Anjou, and that of Stephen who was fated to be a terrible judge of character and too forgiving of his enemies, and other characters such as Ranulf, a fictionalized illegitimate half-brother to Maude, and Robert, another illegitimate half brother. Not until the very end of the book do we finally read about Maude's eldest son, the future Henry II, and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine and how they meet, which I found to be the most entertaining part of the book and their ensuing marriage. I was heartened to read in Penman's afterward that she pictures Katharine Hepburn (from the fantastic movie, The Lion in the Winter) as Eleanor.)If you are a diehard Penman fan, this book is a must, but it does not have the poignancy, romance or storytelling of her Wales Trilogy (though there is a bit of Wales in this one) or The Sunne in Splendour which revolves around Richard III. It wasn't bad, but it didn't grab me. I found I put the book down a lot and did not get into it until I was more than half way through it. Still, I did enjoy reading about this period, and it's a good lead in to Henry II's reign, which I have always been interested in ever since seeing the movies Becket and The Lion in the Winter which starred Peter O'Toole playing Henry II twice, as the younger Henry and elder Henry.
Simon1265 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written like all of Penman's Books
eplu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book, rich in detail and full of the perplexing intrigue and political and sexual politics of the 12th century. I have recently discovered penman, and am eager to read the next in this series, Time and Chance.
victorianrose869 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
October 18, 1999When Christ and His Saints SleptKay PenmanOne of the best historical novels I¿ve read so far, taking me into an era of British royal history I knew absolutely nothing about. Stephen and Maude, two of the grandchildren of William the Conqueror ¿ or William the Bastard, as he was known then, since it wasn¿t until Victoria¿s time that ¿the Bastard¿ part quietly went away ¿ are fighting over the throne of England. Henry I had been left with no legitimate heirs after his son was killed in the White Ship, so his niece and nephew (cousins, not siblings) are next in line. No one will ever know the whole truth, I suppose, but supposedly Henry had named Maude as his successor. Since few wanted a female monarch, a clergyman close to the king proclaimed that on his deathbed, Henry had changed his mind and declared Stephen his successor instead. Stephen seized the throne in a coup of sorts before Maude could get to it, and there ensued a fifteen-year civil war that is said to be one of the bloodiest in English history, and it¿s those years that were referred to by the Worcester Chronicle at the time as the years ¿when Christ and his saints slept¿. Eventually, Stephen and Maude agreed that Maude would not be Queen, but that Stephen would name her son, Henry II, as his successor, since his own son had choked to death one night at dinner. Henry II was the notorious first of the Plantaganet dynasty, and married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Queen of France. Supposedly Penman is also writing that story, so I¿m keeping my eyes peeled. This book was just incredible. A huge tome, but worth it.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For 20 years during the middle of the 12th century, a civil war raged in England over the succession to the crown between the daughter and the nephew of Henry I¿himself a most likely usurper of England¿s throne. Although Henry I had designated Maude his heir, Stephen claimed the crown for himself. Reluctant to accept a woman as ruler, most of the barons willingly accepted Stephen as king. However, enough remained loyal to Maude¿and among those whose support was crucial was Robert of Gloucester, the illegitimate oldest child of the former king¿that Maude was able to mount an assault on Stephen, plunging England into civil war.Maude and Stephen¿s armies and those of their ambitious adherents ravaged the English countryside, causing such misery that the people called it `the time when Christ and his saints slept¿, the title of the book. Eventually, the war came to an end, with Maude¿s son Henry proclaimed as the heir; within a year of the truce, Stephen was dead and Henry ascended the throne as Henry II, one of England¿s greatest kings.These are the bare historical facts upon which Penman writes an excellent novel of the era. She writes from the points of view (in the 3rd person) of many different characters, many historical figures such as Stephen, Maude, Stephen¿s wife Matilda, Henry, and Eleanor of Aquitane, but also from fictitious ones; the most prominent non-historical figure is Ranulf, one of Maude¿s illegitimate brothers who supports Maude loyally throughout 19 years of fighting.The format works extremely well, allowing Penman to bring in all sorts of details about the life of the people at the time and how devastating the war was for the ordinary English who had no personal stake in the crown itself. The book is rich in historical detail¿the siege of Winchester and Oxford, the rise and fall of the tide of success for each side, the betrayals and counter betrayals of various powerful nobles as they sought to turn the war to their own gain. Penman does a good job with characterization; these people are believable. Maude has always gotten a bad press, thanks to the hostility of the monks who wrote the history of the time. Penman does an excellent job of redressing the balance, favoring neither Maude nor Stephen but showing the strengths and fatal weaknesses of both. We do get tantalizing glimpses of Thomas Beckett and especially Eleanor of Aquitane, Henry¿s wife, that clearly belong to another volume in Penman¿s excellent historical series. However, the book stands totally on its own merits which are many.
RockStarNinja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Christ... is the prefect first book in the series of Henry Fitz Empress and Eleanor of Acquitane, I cannot wait to begin the next book Time and Chance. This is one of those books that you have to force yourself to put down. I absolutely loved this book, it was funny at times and emotional. I do think it is funny though that my favorite character is the one character in the book that was made up.
soliloquies on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating, but frustrating, account of the civil unrest between Maude, hereditary heir to the throne of England, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. Following the death of Henry I, Maude is expecting to be crowned Queen, but before she can return to England her cousin has been crowned King.All the elements of a great book are there, detailed historic research and excellent writing but this remains my least favourite Penman book. The problem lies with the two central characters ¿ Maude is remembered, by history, as being haughty and aloof, whilst Stephen was regarded as weak and ineffectual. Penman tries to round off their personalities, but, for me, they remain unlikeable. I found myself unable to sympathise with either of them, and kept wishing that Maude¿s illegitimate elder brother, Robert, had been crowned King.The latter part of the book sees greater involvement from Maude¿s son, Henry II, and it is here that things begin to improve. His wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is another `big¿ personality and perhaps it is their dominance that overshadows Maude and Stephen. The story skips along when their characters are predominant and that saves this book.
surreality on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plot: The historical events around Empress Matilda and Stephen of Blois form the background; most of the plotlines are historically accurate and dealt with in chronological order. The fictional plotlines are notably simpler and more straightforward. No surprises, but in a historical novel, surprises shouldn't happen when it comes to plot anyway.Characters: The historical characters are portrayed in quite interesting ways, and stereotyping is mostly avoided. The research paid off here - motivations and goals are clear, and the characters feel real. Style: For large stretches, the narration is quite matter-of-fact. Description doesn't take a large role, neither do details on battles. It's still an adequate amount of both, and since it's consistent, it's not something that's really missed. Plus: Excellent research, and a good portrait of the political situation at the time. Minus: The fictional central character and the way he constantly distracts from the historical events. If I'd been interested in reading about cliché romances in Wales, I'd have bought another book. Summary: It's an overall good book that trips itself with fictional plot excursions.
wizardsheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a real disappointment. It tells the story of Maude and Stephen and their fight for the crown of England in the 12th century. It spans a lot of years. Which in my opinion is very tricky in a book. To have it span so long and still be able to not lose interest in a character or a situation. I am afraid this happened several times for me. There was a lot of repetition. And it seems like threads got lost and a lot of things were left out, that I would have included had I written it. It was however, very informative. SKP really does a good job of showing what it was like during this time period. She just didnt capture my heart with it. At times it was so informative that the thread of the novel got lost. I have read other stuff by SKP and she is a terrific writer. This just happens to have been a dud. :o(
nellista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first Penman book that I read and I loved it! It was a bit daunting at the beginning getting all the family connections sorted out but this book really sends you back to the conflict between Stephen and Mathilda for the crown of England.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the death of Henry I, his daughter, Maude, and his nephew, Stephen of Blois, fight for control of England. Penman is my favorite historical fiction author. Her books are always well-researched and her characterw come alive. Of the many books I've read of hers, I didn't like this one as well as others. I think it's mostoly because I didn't like the characters as well. Book 1 of the Eleanor of Aquitaine series.