The Sunne in Splendour

by Sharon Kay Penman

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ms Penman sadly died of pneumonia earlier this year, so the Retro Reads Group decided to read this as a tribute to her. Most of the group loved this book. I also loved it – in parts.

Let me explain.

This book was always going to be a challenge for me as I generally like my fiction to come in at under 450 pages and this was a whopping 886 pages. I applaud Ms Penman’s dedication & determination in recreating this after her original (much shorter) manuscript was stolen from her car, but I think this would have worked better as a two volume series. I did find that portions of Part Three dragged and that towards the end of Part Two Anne Neville & Richard’s love story became a bit sickly – just a bit!

But; Penman gave Edward the IV’s character a lot of complexity. Like most real life people sometimes there was just no way to explain some of his actions & Penman does find solutions for some of them.

I loved the way Jane Shore was depicted – Jane lit up the pages whenever she appeared (I just kept thinking of Cyndi Lauper & Girls Just Want to Have Fun)

It could really be that simple that Shore was a nice, generous woman who loved sex and wanted to enjoy life. I would love to read a book where Jane was the central character if anyone has a recommendation. (other than Mistress to the Crown by Isolde Martin

– couldn’t get through that one)

Where the book did fall down for me was that some of the characters were a little too black and white. Unfortunately that includes Edward the IV’s wife, the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville

(If this portrait by an unknown artist is accurate, Elizabeth must have been stunning!)

& his beloved & trusted brother Richard. In fact almost all the Woodvilles are shown as uniformly evil. This becomes a bit much. Richard, on the other hand, is almost saintly, other than when he (allegedly) had his former close ally Hastings beheaded without a trial. I almost welcomed this gruesome action to show Richard as having some human feelings.

The ending for Richard III & his close ally, Humphrey Stafford is the stuff of nightmares, but those were indeed cruel times.

When I give a rating of 3.5★ it means I liked the book enough to read more by the author and that is how I feel about this book! We will have to see if I can cope with the Middle Ages brutality.

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