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Time and Chance Hardcover – March 4, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (March 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399147853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399147852
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Sunne in Splendour confirmed Sharon Kay Penman's place in the upper echelons of historical fiction, combining a breathtaking panoply of the past with an acute psychological observation of her characters. Time and Chance is the second part of her planned trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, beginning in the glory years of their reign. Penman conjures for us an astonishing era in which Henry battles with the Welsh and the French king, appoints Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, and, by taking a mistress, makes a bitter enemy of his wife.

Readers know the scalpel-like precision of Penman's character building from her earlier work, and the emotional lives of Henry and the troubled Eleanor are powerfully realized. As in the first book of the sequence, When Christ and His Saints Slept, conflict is ever the driving force. Henry and Eleanor's remarkable partnership was proving highly fecund, both politically, and physically, as Eleanor gave birth to five sons and three daughters, laying to rest her reputation as a barren queen and founding a dynasty that was to last three centuries. But auguries of trouble ahead were apparent: war with the Welsh; acrimonious battles with Eleanor's first husband, King Louis VII of France. But the truly destabilizing factor was Henry's decision to appoint his friend and confidant Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry had assumed that the worldly, ambitious Becket would be the perfect ally, and was devastated when the new archbishop cast off his own worldly past as he embraced his role as Defender of the Faith, swapping dissolution for piety.

As Penman vividly demonstrates, Henry saw Becket's action as a humiliating betrayal. One of the most famous murders in history followed, with further conflict in the kingdom caused by Henry's liaison with the daughter of a baron. In bedding Rosamund Clifford, Henry put his marriage and even his kingship at risk. As always, Penman handles her research lightly; the personal drama is the engine of her narrative, with each fresh scandal and intrigue delivered with a beguiling combination of relish and restraint. She is assured in her detailing of the political and ecclesiastical clashes of the court, but it is Henry II who strides her novel like a colossus--just as he did the kingdom he ruled. --Barry Forshaw, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

When Christ and His Saints Slept was Penman's popular account of the 12th-century struggle for England's throne. This book, the second of a planned trilogy, begins after Henry II has inherited the crown and married Eleanor of Aquitaine a mature beauty and a wealthy ruler in her own right. Henry II is a confident leader, but he is also wise enough to appreciate his politically astute wife. His only other trusted adviser is Thomas Becket. Diplomatic and suave, Becket is the perfect complement for a rough-hewn young king. When he makes his chancellor archbishop of Canterbury, Henry believes he is creating an indomitable union of church and state. Becket, however, becomes an adamant protector of ecclesiastical power. The resulting conflict will climax in Becket's murder. In her five previous historical novels, Penman has exhibited a cool, almost academic style balanced by a penetrating sympathy, her fiction adhering faithfully to fact while making the past fully present. She would seem the ideal author to turn these outsized players in a royal drama into real people. Unfortunately, this long-anticipated novel lacks animation. The main characters never come to life, and Becket, in particular, remains a cipher: Penman never ventures inside this saint in the making, nor does she successfully explicate his conversion. She is more confident with her wholly imagined characters, but their vividness only serves to underscore the lifeless quality of the principals, and even the well-defined characters too often indulge in tedious and unbelievable expository monologues. 10-city author tour. (Mar. 4)Forecast: Penman may not attract new fans with this disappointing offering, but the many readers who have been waiting seven years for it to appear will snap it up regardless.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


More About the Author

I am an American of Irish-English-Welsh heritage, and I currently live in New Jersey, although many of my readers imagine I am happily dwelling upon a Welsh mountaintop--but no such luck. I was once a tax lawyer, which I looked upon as penance for my sins. Like most writers, I was born with a love of the written word, although I never expected to be able to support myself as a writer; when you read about starving artists in their garrets, most of them have starving writers as roommates. But I was very lucky and I have been blessed to make my living as a writer for the past twenty-seven years or so. All of my novels--eleven at last count--are set in the Middle Ages, and focus upon England's most colorful dynasty, the Plantagenets. It is almost as if they lived their dramatic and often wildly improbable lives with future historical novelists in mind, and I am very grateful to them--especially to the Angevins,Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their equally famous children, known to their contemporaries as the Devil's Brood.

Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Historical Fiction.
Moonlady
This sequel to When Christ and His Saints Slept continues the story of Henry II and Eleanor.
Patricia O.
I've read all of Penman's books and am anxiously waiting for her next one.
Richard Grey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

156 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on August 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Penman emerged long ago as one of the best historical novelists and continues to solidify her reputation with each new release. Her special genius lies in the bright and shining historical detail that she can weave into both plot and dialog (she's a very good student of history and at times is absolutely brilliant in conveying to us the workings of medieval minds).
Chronologically, this is the 2nd of her novels. It's also the 2nd in the Henry & Eleanor trilogy (the others are When Christ & His Saints Slept and Devil's Brood).
There is no doubt this trilogy will stand as a superior work for ages to come. There is certainly a very complex plot (because this era of English history was quite convoluted). Penman does an excellent job of keeping it all straight for us as she leads us through the maze of characters. Yes, it's complicated but if you read the history of these times you quickly come to see what a great job she did in her design of the story.
There are touching moments (the private verbal dueling between Henry & Eleanor are always memorable) and Penman is great at establishing dynamic moments for a wide range of events (the machinations of Becket, etc.). Although I suspected it was coming, I still found her negative characterization of Becket to be an amazing perspective (that I can easily imagine coming from the very mind of Henry himself - a remarkable piece of writing by Penman).
As always, Penman's true genius is the broad historical scope that is painted on top of the shimmering details of brief moments. It truly does feel as if you are living the story yourself, and it is this bringing us readers in as witnesses that stands as Penman's contribution to the art of the
historical novel.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Patricia O. on March 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've waited a long time for this book to come out. Sharon Kay Penman has long been my favorite author. This sequel to When Christ and His Saints Slept continues the story of Henry II and Eleanor. Penman is well grounded in the history of the period and her historical novels accurately convey the events of the time as well as acquainting us with the major players of the era. I was interested in the relationship between Henry and Eleanor and, knowing the ultimate outcome, read with fascination about Henry's growing flirtation with Rosamunde. The confrontation between Henry and Eleanor after she first learns about Rosamunde was, perhaps, my favorite scene in the book.
As another writer mentioned, many readers will already be acquainted with Thomas Becket's role in the story through movies. I thought Penman did a good job of describing him. We were not privy to his inmost thoughts, but rather had to try to figure him out as did Henry II. I thought this was a clever way for Penman to handle the question of his motivation. We don't know, neither did Henry or his other contemporaries, but we have enough to make our own conjectures.
If you haven't already, be sure to read Penman's other books--Sunne in Splendor (Richard III), and the Welsh Trilogy, starting with Here Be Dragons.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. Lord on February 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Sharon Penman has written some of the best historical fiction out there. Unfortunately, this book isn't up to her usually high standard.
The book is a sequel to When Christ and His Saints Slept and deals with Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (always a great subject for historical fiction). Penman does a good job of bringing her characters to life but somehow the plot doesn't really work and, much to my surprise, I had a difficult time finishing this book.
One of the greatest weaknesses of the book was her focus on her own fictional characters, Ranulf (Henry's uncle) and his blind Welsh wife, Rhiannon. Ranulf's story of divided loyalties (is he Welsh or Norman?) should make for a great story but Penman never manages to create and maintain this tension. In fact, Ranulf and Rhiannon's story became less interesting to me as I read on in the book.
The book would have been more interesting (at least to me!) if she had focused on Eleanor and Henry---and their incredible relationship. Even if she had focused solely on Henry's political ambitions and struggles the book would have been a better read.
Buy this if you are a serious Penman fan but otherwise give it a miss and read her other books instead (esp. The Sunne in Splendor).
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By W. Zollo VINE VOICE on June 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Penman, has drawn her magic pen once again, this time to tell the tale of the strongly interwoven relationships between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Thomas Becket and the Empress Maude.
Henry & Eleanor's relationship starts out as a breathtaking explosion of power and attraction but soon simmers into a broiling brew of discontent between such *high-maintance* personalities.
Becket is rightly shown as the enigma he was in life and in a gutsy move on Penman's part she allows the reader to make up their own mind about this complex and very *unsaintly* character.
She also includes a wonderful continuation of fictional characters from When Christ and his Saints Slept which as a side bar story...really eases the increasing tensions between Henry and Eleanor.
Penman isn't known as a fasnicating, accurate historical author without great reasoning and she doesn't disapoint with Time and Chance which is a tremendous building block to the final novel in the trilogy - The Devil's Brood.
An amazing read from an amazing author!!!
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