Ikonopeiston's Reviews > The Sunne in Splendour

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
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's review
Jan 16, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: ricardian, kindle
Recommended for: Ricardians, history buffs
Read in January, 2009 , read count: 6

** spoiler alert ** I bought this book after reading a selection from it on my Amazon Kindle. Thank goodness for the Kindle edition. I have copiously annotated as I read in order not to lose track of felicitously phrased passages and important details. Penman does an excellent job in keeping the various strands of this complex tapestry in their proper places. Finally, I think I have a feel for the Wars of the Roses!

One of the places where Penman does a bit of dodging has to do with the death of George, Duke of Clarence. Legend has it that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey. Revisionists say this is a poetic way of referring to his tendency to drink heavily of this particularly vile concoction. Penman only has the priest suggest to Clarence that drowning is said to be an easy death. No details. Hah!

The picture of given here of Richard is based mostly on Kendall's biography. It would have been helpful had Penman shown us a little more of the ruthlessness which was a part of his character. He was, after all, a man of his times - a time in which strength was valued over mercy. Nonetheless, it is true that both Edward IV and Richard were inclined toward making supporters of their enemies for purely political reasons. And there is no doubt that Richard was a man of justice for all, not just the powerful; his Council of the North and his only Parliament bear witness to that. Modern readers will be surprised to learn how many of our present rights were established by Richard III.

It is always pleasant to see a skillful attempt at the rehabilitation of an unjustly maligned historical figure. Sir Thomas More and Shakespeare have much to answer for. As Kendall says about the Shakespeare's play:
"What a tribute this is to art; what a misfortune this is for history."

I am reading this book again to get the taste of a poorly written and researched effort I have just finished out of my mind.

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Reading Progress

12/30 "Kindle books have no page numbers. I am about half-way through this for the sixth time."
04/22 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Barb Hmmm I think I know where that bad taste in your mouth originated...
Have you taken a look at Richard of England by Diana Kleyn? It's about Perkin Warbeck and it's non-fiction. Do you have any interested in the story of Warbeck? I thought it was sad but facinating.

Ikonopeiston No, I shall check it out. There seems to be an endless universe of books, both fiction and non, about this precise period.

What is interesting to me about Warbeck is the number of people who accepted his identity, including Margaret. I have read that he, himself, told mutually conflicting stories about how he came to be where he was. Am I right in thinking him to be the most likely of all the Pretenders?

Barb Kleyn's book is very convincing for the case of Warbeck being Richard Duke of York. She lists Margaret, Isabella & Ferdinand, and James IV of Scotland as being convinced of his identity. Not that that stopped them from using him to their best advantage, of course. It seems that the conflicting accounts were part of the so called confession that Henry Tudor extracted from him. Have you ever seen the drawing of Warbeck? He bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV.



Ikonopeiston You're right. He does look a lot like Edward IV back when he was the "handsomest Prince in Christendom". I wonder if the likeness was what convinced Margaret? She always was a pushover for her handsome brothers Edward and George.

I have the distinct impression that Henry Tydder was the Dick Cheney of his day - a real aficionado of torture and the like. I shall certainly make an effort to get my hands on the book. Thank you for the recommendation.

message 5: by Jamie (last edited Jan 09, 2009 08:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie Collins In response to Penman not depicting Richard's ruthlessness: I love Penman, but one of her faults is that she makes everyone a nice guy. She writes sympathetically about King John, for example, when as far as I can tell everybody hated John.

Ikonopeiston I am ashamed to admit this is the only Penman I have read. If I can ever pry myself out of the fifteenth century, I intend to immerse myself in SKP. However, for the foreseeable future, I am stuck firmly in the puzzles which surround Richard III.

It was a surprise to me to learn that Richard is the English king who has occasioned the most discussion and the greatest number of books concerning his life and character. Hm...

Misfit I love Penman, but I didn't get Richard being all that sympathetic in Devil's Brood, but really dying to see what she'll do with him in Lionheart (long wait that's going to be).

She does write sympathetically - although I have to say that Edward I sure didn't get off as being anything close to a good guy. She also cuts de Montfort as being close to perfection and godliness and I understand from another writer that's studied this period that he was most likely a pompous bigoted you know what like his father was. We'll never know....

message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Karabin Clarence's death is vividly depicted in the movie "Tower of London" (1939). Clarence is played by Vincent Price and Richard is Basil Rathbone.

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