Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Time and Chance

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Time and Chance

Article excerpt

Time and Chance. By Sharon Kay Penman. New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 2002. 515 pp. $27.95 (cloth).

For the past twenty years, Sharon Kay Penman has brought the Middle Ages to life for readers who would never willingly take a history course or read an academic study. Starting with The Sunrise in Splendour in 1982, she has told the story of England's kings and queens through accurate and passionate fiction.

Time and Chance is the second novel in a proposed trilogy covering the mid-twelfth century. The first, When Christ and His Saints Slept, tells of the time of the Anarchy and the battle between Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois, for the crown of England. While Penman uses the historical characters as her protagonists in this book, she also has an important fictional character, Ranulf, a bastard son of Henry I by a Welsh woman. Ranulf is a focal point so that the reader may grasp the personal conflict in one man who is forced to choose a side in a civil war even though he has friends and family in both camps. While the constraints of historical record govern the actions of the main players, Penman is free to make Ranulf a twelfth-century Everyman.

In Time and Chance it appears that Ranulf's loyalty conflict is solved by the death of Stephen and the ascension of Matilda's son, Henry II. Ranulf has married a Welsh cousin, Rhiannon, and dreams of nothing more than staying with her on their estate. Instead lie finds himself drawn into Henry's wars, against the Welsh border lords, against the lords of Aquitaine, and finally, against the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket. …

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