Review: When Christ and his Saints Slept

When Christ and his Saints Slept
Sharon Kay Penman
Ballantine Books, 2009 (1995)
Purchased new trade paperback

The hall was a scene of chaos. The other women had not been as punctilious about propriety as Maude, and had hastened downstairs in various stages of undress. Everywhere she looked, she saw unbound hair, bare feet, husbands and wives entwined in joyful, welcoming embraces. Her entrance went almost unnoticed in the confusion, and it was several moments before Robert disentangled himself from Amabel’s arms and shoved his way through to her side. Maude reached out, taking his hand in hers. “Thank you,” she said, “for winning back my throne.”

I do not know where to begin in describing how utterly disappointed I am in this book, the first in Penman’s trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I have to praise Penman for her thorough research and the way she brought twelfth-century France and England to life; as a historical novel, When Christ and his Saints Slept succeeds. As a work of fiction, however, it is a mess.

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