Tag Archives: Historical Novel

Recommended Read – Lionheart by Sharon Penman

lionheartRichard I was crowned King in 1189 and set off almost immediately for the Third Crusade. This was a bloody campaign to regain the Holy Land, marked by warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. Men and women found themselves facing new sorts of challenges and facing an uncertain future. John, the youngest son, was left behind – and with Richard gone, he was free to conspire with the French king to steal his brother’s throne.

Overshadowing the battlefields that stretched to Jerusalem and beyond were the personalities of two great adversaries: Richard and Saladin. They quickly took the measure of each other in both war and diplomacy. The result was mutual admiration: a profound acknowledgement of a worthy opponent.

In Lionheart, a gripping narrative of passion, intrigue, battle and deceit, Sharon Penman reveals a true and complex Richard – a man remarkable for his power and intelligence, his keen grasp of warfare and his concern for the safety of his men, who followed him against all odds.

Most people have heard of the English king Richard I, known as the Lionheart, but do we really know the truth about the man? As with any medieval character much has been lost with the passage of time, and often much of what remains is distorted or written by those who came after and had an axe to grind. If you come to Lionheart with a background of legends then you will be expecting to read about a man who was a bad king, who put his love of battle and search for glory before the needs of his kingdom, even put that kingdom at risk for his own selfish reasons. Yet after reading this novel by Ms Penman you will most likely come away with a different view; it may be possible that Richard I is as maligned and misunderstood as that other Richard, King Richard III.

Ms Penman, who has conducted extensive research of the chronicles and first-hand accounts of the events of the Third Crusade, reveals a different Richard. Here we see a man driven by a genuine desire to retake the Holy Land for God, who knew the risks to his lands back in Europe but was prepared to accept these for the glory of God. It is true that he was a brave, almost reckless, warrior but he was also a fine tactician and general with a deep grasp of politics and human character which enabled him to bring a well-rounded approach to his plans and often a depth of understanding which his contemporaries did not see.

Surprisingly, Lionheart is not a book full of blood and gore, it takes many pages for the Crusaders to reach the Hoy Land, but it is engrossing in its revelation of the times and key people – revelations based on solid facts supported by both Christian and Saracen sources. It introduces us to a cast of well-rounded and believable characters whose weaknesses as well as strengths are fully exposed. Whilst not being the bad king that he is often portrayed to be Richard was a poor husband and probably a deeply selfish man (but that was not unusual for medieval monarchs who believed that they were the chosen instruments of God). Ms Penman also roots her novels in a realistic world which allows us to almost feel the heat and discomfort experienced by those who had never been out of Europe before, the comforts of court life, the food, the clothing worn, the terrible sea voyages undertaken.

Lionheart a is solid, detailed, character driven historical novel which delves into the political intricacies of the closing years of the twelfth century. It immerses the reader in the Third Crusade and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in history, religion and the enigma which was Richard I. I look forward to reading A King’s Ransom which will bring the story of Richard to its final conclusion.

You can find Lionheart on Amazon

You can find out more about Sharon Penman here

You can find more of my Recommended Reads here

 

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The Historical Novel Society reviews Heronfield

'Heronfield' a novel by Dorinda Balchin

 

The Historical Novel Society has just written a review of Heronfield. You cannot believe how pleased I am to have such a positive recommendation from such a prestigious society.

If you haven’t yet read Heronfield, then I hope that this review may encourage you to do so.

So what did the review say? Well, here it is…

 

The Kemshall family home, Heronfield, has been turned into a convalescent hospital during World War II. Tony’s brother, David, a hero to all in his family, is a Spitfire pilot and decorated as one of the men involved in the Battle of Britain. Tony, a survivor of Dunkirk, finds himself facing several battles: fighting a father who believes him a coward, fighting for the love of the woman of his dreams and fighting to keep the biggest secret from them all because Tony is a British spy, working in occupied France.

Heronfield is a hefty tome; a large paperback over 400 pages long, an indication of the amount of story here. The course of six years is spanned, from the beaches at Dunkirk to the liberation of the concentration camps. Many of the chapters have beginnings that are akin to the Pathé News segments, telling what is happening in other areas of the world before returning to the main action in either Heronfield or St Nazaire – a brilliant way of giving the reader all the information required.

The characters are incredibly realistic; it is difficult to set Heronfield down. It would not be possible to write a story about the bravery of the soldiers or the Resistance without making sure that the reader is aware of just why they were so brave, and this is put across tactfully, but still gives the reader an idea of the horrors faced by these people.

An amazing read.