This will be the first post in a new category; reviews of books dealing with the centuries, people and events my blog is concerned with. It will be both fiction and non-fiction.
The Sunne in Splendour is the novel form 1982 which aims to restore the, in all honesty – at least earlier – quite sorted reputation of Richard III, and the author takes on the challenge with enthusiasm for close 1 000 pages, and she does a predominantly very good job for which she should be commended.
The first, completely finished manuscript of the book got stolen from her car, after which she resolutely wrote the book again. It takes conviction to do such a thing.
Even though I – as one would have said if we had been at the end of the Wars of the Roses – ”hold for Tudor” (the battle of Bosworth is seen as the last battle of this civil war) I with, some reservations, like this book very much.
My first reservation is that while it is the job of an author of fiction to create the characters of the people she or he write about, I after a while find that I feel that she does to much out of the deep, presumed love between Richard and Anne. And this is slightly odd, because at first I find it endearing to the point where I almost fall in love with Richard myself. But after a while it, to me, becomes too much. Historically, there is no record what so ever of what their relation was like, other than the fact that they were married.
But what is at stake here is to make Richard seem as the most loving, considerate and endearing man that has ever lived. After a while it becomes a bit much.
Normally, this shouldn´t even be needed to point out, but the Richard of Sharon Kay Penman is a, in his private relations, fictional character. However, my view of the book has been tainted by the realisation that there exist a whole army of fans who view the book as absolute truth. And it really isn´t quite fair to lay the blame for this on Sharon Key Penman OR the book. Basically she did what an author is supposed to do; enchanted a vast number of her readers.
I read the book with mild interest to begin with and got captured somewhere around the 200th page. I continued reading enthusiasm for maybe 35o more pages. But at that point I was just over halfway through the book and I felt how my good will began to dwindle (that´s at least how I interpret my feeling of ”Aren´t we at Bosworth soon?”).
Personally I feel that too much time is spent at recounting Richards’s marital happiness. I also feel that Richard is too glorified. Even if he wasn´t a hunchbacked crippled madman with a withered arm (the Richard III of Shakespeare) which I don´t believe he was, I also don´t believe in the medieval king as a cuddly plush toy, regardless of who that king is.
I feel she reduces the outburst of rage on Richard´s side which ended with the execution of Will Hastings, trivialize his high-handed take over of his nephew Edward – who was supposed to be King – and explain the disappearance of that same Edward and his younger brother (the princes of the Tower) in a fuzzy way.
Sure, it is a novel. But it deals with actual historic events, and there will always be a crabby sod – like myself – who considers her- or him familiar with the events. So, do I think you should read it? Absolutely, why not?