Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Devil's Brood

That's the title of Sharon Kay Penman's final installment of her trilogy on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I have always enjoyed Penman's work. She has a unique ability to reanimate historic figures. And, the dysfunctional Angevin royal family were perfect fodder.

Some of ye socks may remember something of the saga from watching the classic 1969 film "The Lion in Winter," with Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn, and Anthony Hopkins, in Mrs. Duncan's senior English class.

Penman has the advantage over the screenplay, though. After reading her version of this tangled saga of conspiracy and betrayal, you feel like you actually "know" the characters. This is particularly fascinating stuff if, like yours truly, you can trace your family line back to this period and these people.

I was surprised towards the end of the book, when I caught myself laughing out loud at Penman's account of King Henry's deathbed conversion. Not the sort of subject material that generally makes one laugh, right?

Well, in this case, the stubborn king lay on his deathbed bitterly refusing to reconcile himself with God, feeling He had foresaken his family. But, then, one of his household knights whispered something in his ear. And, Henry quickly ordered his servants to carry him to the nearest church to receive absolution.

Stunned at the quick turn around in the king's attitude, the other knights asked their comrade what he had whispered in his ear. His answer? He had simply remarked if the king went to hell an unrepentant sinner, he would have to spend all eternity with with his equally unrepentant sons!

If you like historical fiction, give this one a chance. And, if you like it, check out Sharon Kay Penman's other works on her website:

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