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History Group Reads > When Christ & His Saints Slept: Ch. 1 - 16

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message 1: by Sara W (new)

Sara W (sarawesq) | 2153 comments Please discuss Prologue/Chapter 1 (Barfleur, Normandy, November 1120) through Chapter 16 (Oxford Castle, England, April 1141) here.


message 2: by The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) (last edited Jun 01, 2009 01:20PM) (new)

The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments I am feeling a bit scared to pick this one up (I still have a couple of other short reads that I have to do first though). I think it may be because I don't know anything at all about this period in history.

I need some reassurance please! :o)


message 3: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 696 comments Boof, first Penman? Don't worry. She makes it all understandable (as well as readable), so the light bulb finally goes off. Reading this book has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of other books set in this period.


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments OK, so I bit the bullet and started it today and so far so good. I was worried because I really know nothing at all about this period or who anybody was. Penman makes it so accessable though, doesn't she? I don't feel out of my depth at all yet although I am reading it slowly to make sure that I fully understand what's what.

I have just wiki'd Stephen and Maude so I can try and get a clearer picture of that time and I also want to look up their dress and customs etc so that I can feel fully emmersed in the period. It's easy for me to do this with Tudor books because I know this period but I want to learn about Stephen et al.

Also, I found out from Wiki that Maude's real name was Matilda (which it doesn't mention in the book). I was confused because I had always been taught that Matilda was the first Queen of England and I couldn't work out who the hell Maude was. Now it makes sense.


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments Can someone help me out with the geography of that time? England and France: what belongs to whom and were Maude and Stephen classed as English or French when they were kids?


message 6: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 696 comments Boof I think Maude/Matilda are interchangeable - different "editions" as it were of the same name. Watch out, there are more Maudes and Matilda's coming in the story, it was a very common name.

I believe they were Norman French, but if you want some real experts join this board and post your question, http://www.historicalfictiononline.co...

There's a poster there by the moniker EC who is very well researched in all things medieval and a particular favorite author of mine :)


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments Thanks Misfit. Hmmmmmmm, who could EC be??? ;o)


message 8: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lesslie) Okay the speech by Matilde, about Maude and how childbirth is for a woman was very well said. That's exactly how I felt with the only one of mine I had with just a midwife and no drugs.
Also, I'm a little shocked about the story of Henry having his grand-daughters blinded and separated from their noses. Did that really happen? Jeesh!


message 9: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 696 comments Any chance Sharon can email Ms. Penman and see if she can drop by on occasion? Just a thought.....


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments Misfit wrote: "Any chance Sharon can email Ms. Penman and see if she can drop by on occasion? Just a thought....."

Does someone know her? That would be so cool if she really could drop by. I have loads of questions!


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments Leslie wrote: "Okay the speech by Matilde, about Maude and how childbirth is for a woman was very well said. That's exactly how I felt with the only one of mine I had with just a midwife and no drugs.
Also, ..."


I thought that about the grand-children being blinded too. That's awful! I wonder if it really did happen. It's more than possible, I suppose. They were brutal times.


message 12: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Moody | 544 comments I'd almost guarantee that if Penman wrote it, it happened. I thought Stephen's explanation for it was perfect. It's a horrible thing, but...

Very good book so far! I can't say I love it as much as Here Be Dragons, but it's bound to get better - that's how her books are! She gets you so invested in the characters that you can't help but love her books. I'm a fan, in case you didn't notice ;)

I'm reading chapter 6. Henry has died and Stephen claimed the throne. Matilda showed up and Stephen's brother was all pissy about it. He's warning the other men not to think they can give Stephen advice - obviously it's a job he wants all for himself. I'm very interested to see what kind of role he plays.
Then one of the twins says something about how the choice was between Maude, who listens to no one - and Stephen, who will listen to anyone. That's why they chose him.
I wonder how true that is. I wonder how much of Maude being passed over was due to her personality, not just her gender?


The Book Whisperer (aka Boof) | 85 comments I'm at exactly the same part as you Mandy. I would guess that the main reason is that she's a woman, but no doubt the fact that she was a cold fish didn't endear her to people who may have given her a chance if she were more approachable, maybe?


message 14: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Moody | 544 comments I'm loving the portrayals of Maude and Stephen.
The only thing I've read of either of them has been passing mention in books about Eleanor of Aquitaine. I've always had a sort of negative impression of BOTH of them. Stephen as weak, and not a very good leader. Maude as sort of bitter and hostile.
Of course I love them both when Penman writes them!
Stephens relationship with his wife, Matilda, is so sweet. And she's fantastic.
Maude is so strong and so smart - and she's been placed in so many horrible situations! When Ranaulf is talking to his finance(can't remember her name) about her I think he puts it all perfectly. The poor woman is supposed to be Queen, yet she has no say even in where she would be buried.

I always think I'd love to travel back in time! I think I'd be a wonderful English lady...
Until someone tried to tell me what to do too many times! Grrr!


message 15: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 696 comments One thing I recall liking about this book is Penman doesn't write either Maude or Stephen as black and white, you get to see their reasoning for what they did.

PS, try to read the entire trilogy especially Devil's Brood published last year. Henry II and his battling brood of sons.


message 16: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Moody | 544 comments I'm almost through chapter 13 - in the middle of a battle scene and loving it. No one writes combat like Penman. I've never been a fan of fighting before, but she does it SO WELL. It adds so much to the book.

I feel terrible for poor Maude, separated from her children. The scene of Henry in Geoffrey's bedroom while he was in bed with a mistress made me feel so badly for him! I'm really enjoying getting to know a bit about Henry as a child.
I have to agree with Amabel, though, Maude does NOT know how to 'handle' her man.
I think it's been abundantly clear from when we met Geoffrey's first mistress (can't remember her name - way back at the beginning, the prostitute with the sister that came to live with her?) that he is a man that COULD be handled, had Maude cared to do so. Instead she expected respect and deference from him in a time when that just wasn't common practice.

Ranaulfs defense of her - saying that she's just so honest, she doesn't put on pretense, etc. is such a lame argument. Yes, honesty is a virtue, but so is congeniality. It seems like her home life could have been so much more peaceful and enjoyable if she'd only tried. Instead she went into the marriage expecting it to be a disaster. Self fulfilling prophecy.

Yet Maude is so strong, self assured and smart. I think she would have been a good queen.
Interesting contrast to Stephen. He and Matilda have a beautiful marriage, but he's not a strong leader.


message 17: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Lane I was just perusing the Poisoned Pen bookstore's email news and found this delicious tidbit that I thought would be of interest.... :)

Sharon Kay Penman
"My new novel Lionheart is going well so far. Richard is being surprisingly cooperative, being one of the Devil's Brood, probably because he is eager for me to get him to Outremer so he can start spilling blood, what he does best."

I can't wait!


message 18: by Misfit (new)

Misfit | 696 comments You and me both. Boy she had Richard pegged in Devil's Brood. That dialogue. Wow.


message 19: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I have read through chapter 7, ie page 143. Ranulf haz just found out that Anorra has married Gervaise Fitz Clement. He went on his drinking bing. Stephen is now King of England. His honor is questioned by all. My query is - can a good person be a good king?! Very doubtful indeed! Penman makes the history very clear and her interwieving of fictional characters and true characters is seamless. At first it is so hard to really understand how deep women's subservience to men is in this era. Only after awhile does it really sink in, for example how Maud has to sometimes fold to Geoffrey's demands in order to keep Geoffrey from taking her children. Her primary goal is to see that her oldest son Henry will be able to take over the kingdom from her. To be certain of this she must prevent her husband from simply taking off with him. That Geoffrey could so easily do this is at first just so hard to imagine. How stuck we are in our own ways of thinking! Maud, she is some motivated character! Given her personality, she is so definitely caught in the wrong era.


message 20: by Cathie (new)

Cathie | 38 comments EC stands for Elizabeth Chadwick (medieval author) who wrote a couple of novels on William Marshall and one on his father, John Marshall. John Marshall and his son, William, play a part in this current book being read by Penman. All of the events are true. I belong to a group of Sharon Kay Penman readers. Her next book is Lionheart which she hopes to have published next year, if all goes well. She has been ill on and off for awhile which tends to effect her writing ability.


message 21: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Mandy - I am not as far as you, only in chapter VIII, but I agree completely concerning Maud's annoying inability to make any attempt to appease Geoffrey. I am not saying Geoffrey's a likeable person, but if she just tried a little teeny bit. And Stephen, he is such a nice guy, but basically a lousy "king". That is what I meant by my question can you be a good person and a good king?! I like Penman's writing.


message 22: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I am on page 452 - that is in chapter 16. I am getting terribly bogged down by the warring factions. And the bickering between Geoffrey and Maude. And the downright stupidity of Stephen sometimes. When he lets Maude free. I mean the fighting will continue forever if he continues to vacilate. I get kind of irritated b/c the irrational behavior of the leaders makes the suffering of the normal people continue. Misfit, I read in your review of this book that 2/3 of the book dragged a bit b/c of the continual battling, but then it improved. That is alot to go through when there are over 900 pages in the book. Sigh. And I think you still gave it 5 stars ! But I like Henry. Terrible family situation! I like his spunk when he wants to go to his Mom to encourage troop moral. Cool little kid. So many people rated this book well. I want a book to keep my interest all the way through..... Somebody give me some encouragement here. I need it!


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