am 3. August 1999
It was an accident, really, that I came to own the book. We were in a tiny bookstore across from Caernarfon Castle when I found the thick and tempting volume. Having exhausted my reading material during the trip, I bought it, and tucked it away for the long flight home. Once started, there was no way to put it down...and I greedily read page after page. It sounds trite to say I was transported, and that Penman makes the characters come alive. In fact, she unleashed a hunger to learn I thought I had lost, and I went in search of Richard...through historical perspective and modern day essays. Finally, last year at Middleham castle, we saw a much loved and dog eared copy of Sunne by the cash register. I pointed to it and said, "That is why we are here..." The guide wasn't surprised; in fact she told us just how many Americans say the same thing. I came away from Richard's home with haunting photos and a real treasure...the guide gave me a book plate autographed by Penman during one of her visits to the castle. I missed the book the moment I finished reading it, but was cheered by the author's wonderful Welsh trilogy awaiting me on the shelf...
am 23. Februar 2008
Autumn 1459. A seven year-old boy gets lost in the forest. His easy-going eldest brother has had better things to do than watch over him, that is to say seducing a pretty servant girl. After a prolonged search the lad is found, having bravely fought his fear, and despite being afraid of punishment he doesn't even think of informing against his sibling. A fiercely loyal and earnest boy, he is the youngest of his family, small, dark and intense and very different from his three tall and fair brothers. He is Richard Plantagenet, who, as King Richard III, will go down in history as the epitome of evil.
The reader wonders what happened to turn this earnest child into a murderous usurper. Murderer he wasn't, claims Sharon Penman. Believable and compelling, the story of the four sons of Richard, Duke of York unfolds with all the relentlessness and inescapability of a Greek tragedy.
"The Sunne in Splendour" is a magnificent book. Intimate family scenes alternate with bloody battles, scenarios of betrayal and murder are followed by tender love scenes. A host of unforgettable characters populates it. There is the lovable Edmund, the first of the four Plantagenet princes to die; proud foolish Warwick and his tragic brother John Neville; the icily beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, Edward's queen; Bishop Morton, the snake in the grass; sweet-natured Elizabeth of York and Richard's dignified mother Cecily. All of them are complex, and stay with the reader for a long time.
Ms. Penman does not make the mistake to present Richard. Although far from being the monster More and Shakespeare described, her Richard is shown partly responsible for his nephews' fate. In her version he does not order their killing, of course, but he does not realise that by his taking the throne the children become pawns in other people's power games and pay for his thoughtlessness with their lives. Ms. Penman's explanation of the princes' disappearance and Richard's strange silence is as good and plausible as others. Her Richard is brave and loyal, but he can also be aloof and stubborn to the point of inflexibility. He can display subtle irony, but also biting wit, and is capable of considerable aggression, yet lacks the ultimate ruthlessness to secure his power. Reflecting upon his decision makes him admit his guilt - that he yielded to the temptation the Crown of England represented - and for the last months of his life he fells bitter remorse. Ms. Penman describes his depressed state of mind with such chilling accuracy, that his mother's fear for his immortal soul is almost tangible and very painful, and the ending leaves the reader bereaved as though he had lost a loved one.
The drama that was Richard's life and the way it is elucidated here makes one wonder why it hasn't been filmed yet. There is a cinematographic quality to many of Ms. Penman's scenarios; look for instance at the council meeting leading to Lord Hasting's execution, or at solitary young Richard riding in blazing sunshine towards Warwick's army camp to win Clarence back - these just beg to be filmed! Certainly, the ending is tragic and would leave the audience aching, but a skilled screenwriter may find a solution. A similar problem has been handled very well in "Braveheart".
Wherein now lies Richard's attraction? The Tudors, commonly associated with the beginning of the Modern Age, superficially appear more interesting as opposed to the Plantagenets who seem to symbolise the superstitions-ridden, unenlightened Middle Ages. Richard was born on the brink of the Modern Age and grew up in a world that witnessed the death throes of the medieval system of values, and yet, at a time when all conventional notions of loyalty and feudal allegiance had become a sham, there survived in him a core of chivalrous conduct that is very appealing, apparent for example in his just administration of the North and his legislation as King - supporting the weak as demanded by the knightly code of conduct. He seems a man born too late, and trying to adhere to such a strict code of behaviour needs must clash with the attitudes of more opportunistic characters who felt more at ease in this era of change.
Richard's physical courage, praised even by his detractors, originates in his chivalrous ideals, and his last ferocious charge down Ambion Hill to challenge Henry Tudor to single combat evokes heroic tales of earlier centuries, and indeed his decision to die a King rather than to flee was mentioned in a contemporary ballad.
Close to the end Richard's niece and nephews mourn their uncle's death and discuss their future, still hoping for fair treatment; future judicial murders and the destruction of Richard's reputation are only mentioned in the epilogue. However, learning about their fate is chilling. On the road to glorious Elizabeth I the Plantagenet blood seeped away as Henry VII and Henry VIII got rid of all potential heirs of the old dynasty.
To a modern observer this policy of merciless extermination appears depressingly modern. For all the beauty, progress and enlightenment the Renaissance brought, the Modern Age was setting out on a road that would lead to the atrocities of the 20th century. Gradually, dynastic wars were replaced by ideological ones, with ever more terror wrought on the common, civilian people who were included in the ideological and/or religious struggles. Already the atrocities of the Thirty Years' War and Cromwell's campaigns in Ireland, not unlike today's ethnical cleansing, loom in the future, premonitory of the final triumphs of secular humanism in the 20th century.
Richard Plantagenet died at thirty-two, his promising reign cut short by rebellion and treason. Ms. Penman brings him gloriously back to life for us, to be seen in a benevolent light at last. It is painful for the reader to lose him again, but the great achievement of this book is to show that there was nobility in Richard's cause as well as in his failure.
am 11. Juni 2006
Über Richard III weiss man meist nur, was Shakespeare geschrieben hat, deshalb ist diese Version so erfrischend anders. Sehr ausführlich gehalten, mit grosser Liebe zum Detail und hervorragender Recherche zeigt uns die Autorin hier ein umwerfendes Zeitbild. Sehr lesenswert.
am 15. Juni 2000
Penman is the greatest historical fiction author I have ever read and I believe that this is her best book. She does a great job of presenting an alternate viewpoint to the story of Richard III. I find it to be very admirable that Penman is able to include so much detail in her books without becoming pedantic and dull. Her stories are full of action and intrigue and are in no danger of becoming the dry histories that are so cocmmon in her genre.
am 15. Februar 2000
About a hundred pages into this book, I found myself rather liking the young Richard. I wondered, "How in the heck can this be the same boy who will grow up to murder his own nephews?" Penman seemed to be tackling a very difficult dilemma: how to make a sympathetic character out of so dastardly a villain. Well, she certainly pulled it off! By the end of the book, and after reading the author's notes, I was seeing King Richard's history in a different light. I am learning more and more about how a historian's biases and motives can color their commentary. Could it be that Richard III is, at least partially, the victim of bad press? Penman's novel has made me realize that historical events may be examined from many different angles.
am 3. Juni 2007
Before I read this book I never touched historic novels but prefered the proper biographies. To be honest I just bought because I could not find anything decent. But how ignorant I was!
This book is totally absorbing and absolutely amazing. It opened a whole new genre for me. Recently I re-read it and I still got hooked. Since I had read this book for the first time I bought all books by S.K. Penman and I have never ever regretted a single second spend over her books.
She really deserses to be called the "author of splendour". Her talent is unique and absolutely outstanding.
5 stars are not enough. So lets at least say it with the words of the Eurovision Song Contest: 12 points!!!
am 15. Januar 2012
...diese Frage kam mir während des Lesens immer wieder in den Sinn. Und da hier deutsche Rezensionen "etwas" in der Minderheit sind, werde ich diesen auch weiter ausführen. Zuerst einmal geht es um die Rosenkriege, hier in der Zeit von 1459 bis 1492 beschrieben. Der Hauptfokus liegt dabei insbesondere auf den berüchtigten, späteren König Richard III., dessen Werdegang im Schatten seines Bruders Edwards IV. geschildert wird. Dabei ist das Werk in vier Bücher aufgeteilt, wobei das erste und letzte sich vor allem mit den Kriegsgeschehnissen und die mittleren mit Richards Privatleben beschäftigen.
Dabei fällt auf, dass sich der erste Teil viel mehr zieht als die anderen, mit deutlich weniger Ereignissen und Jahren versehenen, was wohl daran liegt, dass die Schilderung der politischen Zusammenhänge ausführlich und schlüssig, aber auch sehr komplex ausfällt. Was auch eine große Stärke des gesamten Buches ist, denn bis auch einige Ausnahmen wird der Fokus auf sehr viele Figuren, ihre Sichtweisen und Motivationen gelenkt, sodass sie alle und ihre Gefühle dem Leser sehr nahe kommen. Dabei verliert man aber nie den Überblick (außer an manchen Stellen, wenn von einer Perspektive plötzlich zur nächsten gewechselt wird, weil die andere Person in den Raum gekommen ist), da viele Personen wiederholt beschrieben werden, sodass man sie richtig "kennenlernt" und niemand dabei zu kurz kommt. Mir gefiel auch sehr, dass fast nur historische Figuren auftauchen, die zum Leben erweckt werden, statt welche dazu zu erfinden. Insbesondere die Darstellung von Königin Elizabeth als intrigantes Biest einerseits sowie als leidenschaftliche Ehefrau andererseits ist dreidimensional oder die kurzen aber aufschlussreichen Sequenzen der Lancastrianer sind empfehlenswert. Allerdings ist das bei der Hauptfigur Richard ein gewisses Problem: Es ist zwar klar, dass dieses Werk als seine Rehabilitation gedacht ist, aber so manche moralischen Einsprüche gegen politische Notwendigkeiten oder Privatangelegenheiten sind dann doch des Guten zu viel, dass er mitunter zu sehr als blasser Gutmensch erscheint. Denn die Wahrheit ist doch, dass Richard deswegen so interessant ist, weil er vielleicht nicht der Erzschurke Shakespeares gewesen ist, aber dennoch vielleicht etwas dran sein kann. So komme ich auf meine Ausgangsfrage zurück, die Rebecca Gablé mit ihrem Buch "Von Ratlosen und Löwenherzen" inspiriert hat: Richard III. war ein Monster oder ein Engel. Ich fände aber einen, der beides ist, am interessantesten.
Dabei tauchen natürlich auch Fragen auf, die gewisse Diskrepanzen zwischen Historie und gewünschter Darstellung Richards aufzeigen: Warum hat Richard dem Mörder der Prinzen die Tat nicht angelastet, wenn er doch davon wusste? Nur wegen mangelnder Beweise, nach denen er gar nicht gesucht hat? Warum sollte Edward nie versucht haben, das Eheversprechen durch Alternativen außer Stillschweigen zu entkräften?
Allerdins muss man sagen, dass Frau Penman keineswegs eine Heiligsprechung verfolgt, wodurch meine Befürchtungen, von einem Extrem (Frau Gablé) und andere zu rutschen, nicht wahr werden. Frau Penmans König Richard ist für allem eines: Eine traurige, sehr menschliche Gestalt, deren Regentschaft von Trauerfällen und Verrat geprägt ist und deren emotionale Zerrüttung gegen Ende des Buches den Leser mitreißt und mitnimmt.
Wer - wie ich - von Rebecca Gablés allzu einseitigem und vor allem in charakterlicher Hinsicht extrem flachem Buch "Das Spiel der Könige" enttäuscht war, kann ich dieses Buch nur ans Herz legen, zumal es im gleichen Terrain angesiedelt ist - es ist nur einfach besser.
am 18. Oktober 1998
The fourth star is for Penman's portrayal of Richard as the decent man unfairly maligned by history--the way I've come to see him. However, I must say that while this book was excellently-well researched and incredibly interesting, I've seen Ms. Penman write far better (the Wales trilogy is her best work, and three of my favorite books of all time). While I realize when you're writing an historical novel, accuracy is a crucial element, Ms. Penman nonetheless has an unfortunate tendancy to get a little too carried away by the details. She does this in "While Christ and His Saints Slept" as well (not in the Wales trilogy, thank goodness!), telling the story through the eyes of minor characters such as Veronique and Francis, rather than the major ones such as Richard and Anne. What happens is, she switches back and forth between characters, and as a result, few get the right amount of attention and developement. I mean, Richard is the hero; the story should be told through HIS eyes, not those of his followers. At the Battle of Bosworth, for heaven's sake, the reader should be clinging to Richard's shoulders as he makes that furious, valiant, fatal attack against Richmond, not hanging back and watching from the sidelines with Francis Lovell! Not that I have anything against Francis, which you may think since I've griped about him twice. It's just that this is RICHARD'S story...I wanted to get inside his head, walk around in his boots. All this switching around got too distracting. Still... Don't be daunted by the length of this book. It's really quite fast paced, and never boring. As I said, the subject matter is fascinating and Ms. Penman displays such potential for great writing, which will, unfortunately, not be realized in this work, but later, in her incredible Wales Trilogy. Still... this is a good read for anyone interested in the mystery surrounding Richard's character and for anyone who, like myself, prefers their roses white.
am 9. März 2000
I bought this book, and promptly put it on a shelf for 6 months. Feeling bored I read it. This is a brilliantly researched book, with real depth. Since reading it I have read every available work on Richard lll from Phillipe de Commines to A.L.Rowse, and am a dedicated Richardian.One of histories most maligined monarchs given an identity, and a humanity which has been lacking heretofore. Buy this book and live the past
am 27. April 2000
Once again this talented author gave us a deeper insight into the mideval world. Her depiction of Richard the III is unique as well as a pleasant change. Her theories are well supported by fact, and make far more sense than the simple stamps of "hunchback" and "murderer" placed on Richard the III by his enemies. This book is followed by an author's note supporting her novel as fact, and explaining any discrepancies the book contained. Overall a great read, a wonderful reference, and a fabulous window to the mystery of the two princes in the Tower of London.