I'm afraid I didn't enjoy this book as much as so many other readers did. Everything about this novel is dark - the characters, the descriptions, the...moreI'm afraid I didn't enjoy this book as much as so many other readers did. Everything about this novel is dark - the characters, the descriptions, the plot line, and even the scenery contribute to a feeling of darkness closing in around you.
America has been burned and there is little left except for evil and outlaws. A father and son travel a road, supposedly heading for the coast, and they walk - following 'The Road' - across what is left of America to get there. They encounter mostly evil along the way, but a few bright spots of sad goodness. Don't expect an action-packed thriller here. Rather, the book is introspective and focuses on the father and child and how they relate to the changed world around them.
A novel told from the perspective of Marie Antoinette, this sympathetic portrait paints the French queen as a naive but well-meaning young girl who is...moreA novel told from the perspective of Marie Antoinette, this sympathetic portrait paints the French queen as a naive but well-meaning young girl who is completely unaware of her responsibilities and the consequences of her innocent actions.
Novels about Marie Antoinette seem to fall into one of two camps: either they portray her as an innocent or a serpent. The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in between. It is up to you to read as much as you can and then make up your own mind. This novel, with that in mind, is well worth reading. The court descriptions are rich in detail, but never tedious or detracting from the story. Marie herself comes across as a bit simpering, though, and there are times you want to just give the girl a good shake and tell her to "wake up!." Aside from that, it is an enjoyable read and a nice departure from the swamp of Tudor England novels out there.(less)
The second novel in Sharon Kay Penman's Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy was released in 2003 under the title Time and Chance. Picking up where When Chris...moreThe second novel in Sharon Kay Penman's Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy was released in 2003 under the title Time and Chance. Picking up where When Christ and His Saints Slept left off, it continues to follow the fascinating story of the Plantagenet's quest to rule England, Normandy and ultimately far beyond.
In Time and Chance, it is Maude's eldest son, Henry, who picks up the fight for the crown and goes on to become King Henry II. But England and Normandy are just a small piece of the empire Henry would come to rule. Enter Eleanor of Aquitaine, the infamous beauty who would become the one woman in history to hold both the title of Queen of France and Queen of England in her lifetime.
Penman's characterization of Eleanor is riveting. Shrewdly intelligent and ambitious, it is Eleanor who orchestrates her divorce from the overly-pious King Louis VII and throws her lot in with Henry instead. As a result, Henry and Eleanor ruled an empire that stretched all the way to the Mediterranean -- not an easy piece of real estate to manage in the 12th century -- and much of Time and Chance is concerned with the various upheavals and rebellions Henry had to quell.
Despite their hectic schedule, Henry and Eleanor still find time to produce eight children (lovingly referred to by later chroniclers as "the Devil's brood") and Henry, like most other royal men, found himself a mistress by the name of Rosamund.
One of the more interesting aspects of Time and Chance is the exploration of Henry's complicated relationship with Thomas Becket, his friend, chancellor and later Archbishop of Canterbury. As the legend goes, Henry and Thomas had a falling out and Henry, out of frustration, asked the infamous question: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?!" Or at least, words to this effect. (Penman wisely chooses a variation of this phrase in Time and Chance.) Regardless of the exact phraseology -- history is a bit fuzzy on this point -- the result was catastrophic. Thomas Becket was murdered in his own church, paving the way for his martyrdom and haunting Henry for the rest of his life.
If there are any problems, it is with the sheer volume of historic events Penmen packs into this novel. Events of such a grand scale led to a fracture in the flow of the narrative. After building tension with Henry and Beckett, the conflict then goes unmentioned for several chapters. Likewise with Henry's stormy relationship with Eleanor. The result is a somewhat disjointed feeling to the story, although Penman must be forgiven for this considering the large time frame she is covering.
Despite this small flaw, there is no reason not to pick up this second book of the trilogy. Time and Chance focuses on the political scene of the 12th century and provides the necessary broader picture that paves the way for the newly-released Devil's Brood, which explores, on a more personal level, the disintegration of Henry and Eleanor's marriage and the hornet's nest of children they produced.
Remember your college Greek mythology classes? If your memory is a little fuzzy, it will all come flooding back to you when you read Margaret George's...moreRemember your college Greek mythology classes? If your memory is a little fuzzy, it will all come flooding back to you when you read Margaret George's Helen of Troy. Ms. George recreates the story from Helen's point of view and beginning with Helen's childhood, she paints a fairly vivid picture of Helen's family, her home of Sparta, and the circumstances that led to her sad marriage to Menelaus. When Paris enters the picture, as I'm sure you remember, it's pretty much game-over and the beautiful Helen is spirited off to Troy, leading to the infamous Trojan War.
Peripheral characters make the novel quite enjoyable: Priam, Agamemnon, Cytemnestra, Odysseus and Hector, amongst others, all make a good showing and are quite developed, character-wise, for a novel this length. (I'm sure 638 pages seems like a lot, but for the legend this encompasses, Ms. George had to condense quite a bit here.)
Now for my reaction: I never quite developed any sympathy for Helen and Paris. Their utter selfishness came across as irritating, as opposed to uncontrollable fate. I continually felt the need to give Helen a slap and tell her to "buck up." Paris came across as immature - not a man to fall in love with, but a boy who feels entitled to whatever he wants, at any cost. The supporting cast is delightful, however, and made the story worth a read.
This isn't a so-called "heavy read" by any means. It rather strikes me as something that might be classified as a summer beach novel. Fun, but not serious historical fiction. (less)