The Sunne in Splendour
A Novel of Richard IIIBook - 1982
From the critics
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If you like watching the Showtime TV show The Tudors, you'll love this book. It's a long book, but a serious pageturner packed with suspense and a constant string of overlapping drama-- war, love, hate, battlefields, jealousy, trust, loyalty, deceit, conspiracy, incest, seduction, monogamy, polygamy-- and all this based on real historical accounts. Sunne in Splendour is about the life of Richard III (1452-1485), a long-time controversial character in English history. The book starts with Richard's life at age 7, a civil war that tore his family apart and killed several of his kins, including his father and brother. The House of York (Richard's family) is at civil war with the Lancastrians in pursuit of the crown.
According to the Afterword, all but one major character in the book are real people. The author is a historian who studied the life of Richard III. The book provides an alternative perspective to popular knowledge of Richard's character and life events. Richard's life was widely slandered by his enemies after his death: a great case of victors write history. If you read Shakespeare's account of Richard III, you find a tragic story of a horrible person who lived a horrible life. Reading Sunne in Splendour, you'll find yourself sympathizing with all the characters, and that they lived wretched lives because the world was ill-ordered back then. There's constant ambition to spill blood in pursuit of wealth and power, while trust and true friendship was rare.
Stylistically, this book is beautifully written. Not only is it a great fictional pageturner, but the author also did a great job giving readers a vivid picture of how life was like back in the medieval times. The streets, the buildings, sounds, smells, people's clothes, their gender roles, even their body size and stature are depicted in this story. The dialogs between characters give you a sense of just how treacherous and deceitful people were back then, and how competitive and tough life was for the people who took part of defining the world and government we have today.
If you like to travel in Europe, it's fun to visit the places mentioned in this book. Recommendations: Visit the City of York. Find a comfortable bench across the River Thames in front of the Tower of London. Visit Westminster. Sit down with a beer in a cozy cafe in Brugge or Antwerp (current day Belgium, but in the book it's Burgundy). If you're in Northern England, visit castles and major battlefields mentioned in the book, including Fotheringhay, Middleham, Pontefract, Sheriff Hutton, Towton, Tewkesbury, and Bosworth Field.
In terms of the physical aspects of the book, I like the Kindle version better than paperback, because the print is really small. I'm a bit of a font snob-- I think everything should be at 11pt font and 1.5 spacing. With a book this thick, it's hard to publish it with larger print, but the print is so cramped on the page it takes away the joy of reading.
Spoiler alert: Do not look up Richard the III on Wikipedia until you finish the book. If you want to see what he looks like, do an image search, but beware of text descriptions of his life, otherwise you'll spoil the ending of the story for yourself.
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