TheFountainPenDiva's Reviews > When Christ and His Saints Slept

When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
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's review
Mar 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: genre-historical-fiction, settings-medieval-england, characters-queens
Read from March 24 to April 10, 2011

It still boggles the mind to think that England went through twenty years of civil war because men just couldn't stand to see a powerful woman on the throne. When Christ and His Saints Slept is a very long book, which would make for a very interesting miniseries. This novel is the real Game of Thrones, played against a backdrop of shifting loyalties, clashing armies and the suffering of innocents. One cannot help to feel some sympathy for Stephen, the man who should not have been king. I wanted to dislike him for cheating Matilda (called Maude in the novel), out of her throne, but he's no villian. He truly believes that he was meant to be king of England. Unfortunately for him and for the era he lives in, he's just not ruthless enough.

What's ironic is the mindset of most of the male characters in the book. They firmly believe that women as the weaker sex, have no mind or stomach for politics or for war. Practically every woman character--from the driven Maude, the Stephen's wife Matilda, to the alluring Eleanor of Aquitaine--prove them all very wrong.

The saddest part of this book, and of the real life events it chronicles, is the suffering of the poor who find themselves at the mercy of battle-hardened soldiers, especially when on the losing end of a battle. Twenty years England was torn apart as two strong-willed people battled for what each believed rightly to be theirs.
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Reading Progress

03/24/2011 page 213
29.0% "I love meaty historical fiction novels and this is one of the greats. I've noticed over the years that women seem to write historical fiction better than men. I think it's because women authors are more chaaracter-driven"
03/25/2011 page 271
36.0% "She's got the crown...or does she? One has to feel sorry for both Matilda and Stephen because they're both like pawns in the hands of the earls and barons. No wonder kings had to be ruthless back then, or they'd end up in this mess."
03/28/2011 page 311
42.0% "Maude versus Matilda. Two amazing women fighting for what they believe in. I love hsitory!"
04/05/2011 page 373
50.0% "The REAL game of thrones continues..."

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