GROUP READ: Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman

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GROUP READ: Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman

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Jul 31, 2013, 10:52am

August is upon us, so it's time for the group read of Devil's Brood! I have the book on my shelves and will probably start it within the next week or so. I should note that this book also satisfies the RandomCAT for August, as it is about a (very dysfunctional) family!

Jul 31, 2013, 2:49pm

I'm in. I managed to finish Time and Chance a few weeks ago so will try to manage a more efficient pace for this one. Looks like it will be full of strife!

Jul 31, 2013, 6:00pm

My copy is sitting on the shelf, ready to go! :)

Ago 4, 2013, 6:58pm

Got my e-book version and have started off!

Ago 9, 2013, 11:21pm

about 25% through - in my mind I keep seeing Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor, Peter O'Toole as Henry and Anthony Hopkins as Richard - Lion in Winter from the late 60s.

Ago 12, 2013, 10:43pm

As I have read through these books I keep seeing the same thing.

Ago 12, 2013, 11:04pm

I'm not going to start this till I've finished Gormenghast which I'm slowly making my way through.

Ago 13, 2013, 11:06am

Got my copy the other day so Im hoping to get started this weekend.

Ago 14, 2013, 9:48pm

I got my copy from the library tonight. Will start in a couple of days. I hope that this book is better than the previous in this series. It doesn't look like it will be as long and drawn out.

After reading the first two books in this series I wonder how people watching "The Lion in Winter" understood what was going on. Of course, I also wonder that about the majority of people who watch the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Gone With the Wind." How can you watch these movies and get anything out of them if you don't know the basic history? Or am I being an intellectual snob?

Ago 18, 2013, 6:20pm

The Plantagenets were always an area in history that fascinated me even as a young reader so I am really enjoying the entire series - I'm almost finished!

Ago 18, 2013, 7:23pm

I watched a documentary last night, She-Wolves, which is about England's early queens. The first episode was about Matilda and Eleanor.

Ago 18, 2013, 8:29pm

Finished yesterday and really enjoyed it. Toward the end I was trying to fit what I remembered about the history with what was being presented on the page. The author's note at the end was good.

Ago 19, 2013, 8:37pm

I read somewhere that the term "she-wolf" was first used to describe Matilda/Maud and thereafter was often used to describe ambitious females who aspired to, and sometimes ascended to the throne. Did the documentary say if this was true?

Ago 20, 2013, 1:02pm

Finished this morning! CAN'T WAIT TO DISCUSS!

Ago 20, 2013, 2:13pm

@ 14 -- Oh man, I haven't even started yet! But your enthusiasm makes me eager to get started! :)

Ago 20, 2013, 5:26pm

Benita - I know she talks about that at the start of each episode but I can't remember quite what she attributed it too. I still haven't started the book, I haven't been reading much at all for most of the month.

Ago 21, 2013, 1:00pm

I wonder what is bad about being a "She-Wolf?" Perhaps because of the times in which most of these women lived? But then there is that new book titled Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead where the author says that women need to be more like men in the business world.

I have been reading the Philippa Gregory series The Cousin's War and Marguerite of Anjou was so hated that she was called the "She-Wolf" of France. In reading this series I thought that she was doing what was required to hold the throne for her husband and son and I saw no reason for vitriol spewed at and about her. I think that this is a function of living when and where I do.

Editado: Ago 21, 2013, 1:10pm

I'm getting ready to read Greatest Knight of All about Will Marshall - I thought it'd be a good followup.

Ago 21, 2013, 7:00pm

I read The Greatest Knight: the Unsung Story of the Queen's Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick and liked it. However, I had read quite a bit about William Marshall in the past so for me it was fictionalized account of his early life up to his marriage to Isabel. William Marshall the Elder lived to a ripe old age, but not his son. I would like to read about William Marshall the Younger as there are historical rumors that he was murdered by King John. No proof, just rumors.

Ago 21, 2013, 10:57pm

I've read the first 6 chapters or so, and I'm enjoying the book a lot...but I was completely distracted when I came across the phrase "communication breakdown" in the description of Henry and Eleanor's marriage! That seems WAY too modern to belong in this book. Did that bother anyone else?

Editado: Ago 23, 2013, 10:40pm

What kind of parents do you think Eleanor and Henry, or should I say Harry were? Back in the first book When Christ and His Saints Slept I thought that Geoffrey came across as a good parent. Granted Maud was off fighting in England most of the time but ... I do think that the author put too many modern sensibilities about parenting in that book. I wonder what you guys think about that issue in this book.

Ago 24, 2013, 11:27am

One thing that kept running through my head when I was writing my review was that Harry was "gifted" with a father who was very supportive of his ambitions and nurturing in that area, but that Harry didn't follow those same guidelines with his own sons.

Harry could not understand why his sons would be so ungrateful as to rebel against his authority. He did not feel that they were mature enough to handle the reins of power, however, when they cited his experiences at the same age, he could not justify his delays to them. Henry's issues appeared to be with trust throughout his life - his father trusted him at an early age, but he could not trust his sons which only brought about the rebellions that repeatedly threatened his kingdom and eventually his life.

Ago 25, 2013, 12:27pm

Wow! I never thought of that - trust. That would explain it. In the previous books I thought that the figure of Geoffrey Plantagenet - Henry's father - was a fascinating one, and I would like to read more about him. He seemed to not worry that his son would fail, and you are right, gave him plenty of opportunities to do so. I recall Henry's "invasion" of England when he was 16, and then what he learned from that experience. From the last book, and this one it is clear that Henry did not want to let his sons experiment in the same way. My guess is that Henry did not want his realm torn apart by mini-civil wars, and thought that was what would happen if he let his sons govern on their own. It was safer to let them play. Hence, Hal's living for sports. It was the one area in which he could excel and in which his father would let him.

What about Eleanor and her deviousness?

Ago 25, 2013, 1:02pm

I saw Eleanor more as a mother that wanted her sons to succeed. She had lost her first two daughters to Louis so she had to make sure that no matter what, she was involved in the lives of her sons. The ruler within her also wanted to make sure that her sons carried on her legacy, not necessarily Harry's.

Ago 25, 2013, 1:16pm

You don't see Eleanor using her sons to "get back at Henry?"

It seems to me that she, maybe more so than he, used all of her children to further her and Henry's ambitions of making England a major power in the medieval world.

Ago 30, 2013, 10:08am

I am bound and determined to finish this book by the end of the month...only a little more than 100 pages to go! So beware: there may be spoilers in this comment.

I don't see Eleanor as particularly "devious" either. Yes, she was clearly manipulative and looking out for her own self-interest, but so was everybody else! And she seemed a lot more clear-sighted than Henry about what her sons were truly thinking and feeling. Like Henry, she wanted to preserve peace in the family and in the empire, but she realized that Henry's dictatorial methods were never going to work. So I find her part in the rebellion understandable.

I'm curious about what everyone thinks of Henry and Eleanor's sons. Which of them (if any) did you find most sympathetic? Personally, I had no use for Hal whatsoever; he basically instigated a war just because he wanted a bigger allowance from Daddy. I was a fan of Richard's more often than not, based on his courage and honesty, but he certainly had some major flaws as well! I actually liked Geoffrey the most. He was definitely self-interested, but again, so were they all. I think he would have made the best king, because he seemed to have the best ability to make strategic long-term plans.

Ago 30, 2013, 6:00pm

I finished a couple of days ago, and I enjoyed it, as I have the previous 2 books and several of Elizabeth Chadwick's books about the same era. So, *** possible spoilers ***, though I found myself wishing that I knew less about these people, so that there were more surprises as I was reading.

>18 cyderry: & 19 I read The Greatest Knight a month or 2 ago, and of all the 12th Century books I've read this year, it was my favorite. It's primarily based on a near-contempory chronicle of William Marshal, so a great deal is known about William, who has fascinated me since I first ran into him some years ago. I was disappointed that there wasn't more about him in Devil's Brood. Elizabeth Chadwick isn't as thorough on the historical events and the political situation as Sharon Penman, so I've found that reading both is complimentary.

My biggest problem with both Time and Chance and Devil's Brood is that Henry and Eleanor are almost too human. They of course had their flaws, and both made grievous mistakes, but they were also exceedingly great figures. Henry is usually considered one of Britain's greatest kings and he made numerous changes and innovations; he didn't just fight with his sons. Eleanor was a power in her own right, and brought sophistication and culture to the English courts. It seemed as though SKP was focusing on the flaws at the expense of their attributes.

Personally, I don't think either Henry or Eleanor spent so much time agonizing over their children. They had better things to do -- like maintaining control of their vast kingdom. And anyway, I think Henry was a control freak -- he just couldn't let go of what he had gained and wanted to direct everyone else. I don't think the trust issue was all that big with him, except that he felt fully justified in punishing anyone who defied him. Not that he didn't love his children, in his own way, but people like that only see others, including their children, as they relate to themselves.

As for Eleanor, I think it's pretty much accepted that Richard was her favorite, and she seems to have maintained a decent relationship with her children by Henry. But I do think she used them to get back at Henry, and I think Rosamund Clifford played a more important role than SKP credits. My view is that Eleanor really loved Henry, and saw them as partners in the kingdom; when he took up with Rosamund -- and flaunted his relationship -- she was devastated and wanted to destroy him, too.

Ms Penman's history is excellent, with details of events that really filled in some of the blanks in my knowledge. For example, though I knew that Geoffrey died in a tournament, I hadn't ever read any description of it; and although I think some of it was fictional, it really brought it to life for me. And even though I don't see many of these people quite the same as she does, I enjoyed her view of them.

>26 christina_reads: Richard, Richard, Richard! But I agree that her picture of Geoffrey certainly made him more sympathetic and interesting. I found her characterization of John interesting, particularly since in her Here Be Dragons, which I read a year or so ago, she made him kinder and more sympathetic than anything else I've read about him.

>20 christina_reads: I don't specifically recall "communication breakdown" but I did notice several 21st century catch phrases, most notably "reach out" more than once. I do wish they'd been edited out...

Ago 30, 2013, 8:59pm

In some of the previous books Penman's writing was less than stellar. For instance, the word certes was used and used and used until I was sick of it. I think it was an attempt at authenticity but for me it falls flat. At the same time there are some very modern ideas about women and family life in the stories and I don't think that they are at all authentic to the time.

But I like the stories and over all I like the way she tells them.

Ago 30, 2013, 10:50pm

@ 27 -- Ivy, I've always liked SKP's portrayal of John, both in the Welsh trilogy and in her Justin de Quincy mysteries. The general perception is that he was the Worst Guy Ever, and I'm sure that reputation is well-deserved in a lot of areas, but I like that SKP characterizes him as being more complex.

Ago 31, 2013, 9:32pm

Tell me more about the Justin de Quincy series.

Ago 31, 2013, 10:29pm

@ 30 -- It's a series of mysteries featuring Justin de Quincy, the illegitimate son of a bishop, who ends up becoming an agent for Eleanor of Aquitaine. I think it's set after the events of Devil's Brood. Sadly, there are only 4 books in the series, and I don't know if/when Penman is planning to continue! The first book is The Queen's Man.

Ago 31, 2013, 11:23pm

>28 benitastrnad: It for certes drove me crazy, too! And absolutely not authentic, since they were mostly speaking Norman French (Middle French?), anyway. I'm sure you're right that she hoped to give it a medieval flavor, but 14th Century Middle English didn't do it for me either.

But I like the stories and over all I like the way she tells them.
So do I, and even though I don't totally agree with some of her characterizations, I find them interesting. I'm looking forward to Lionheart.

>29 christina_reads: I liked her characterization of John in Here Be Dragons, too. I haven't read the mysteries yet, but have them on my list. I found something that said they're set in 1193, so I thought I'd read them after Lionheart which I assume will cover Richard's reign 1189-1199. Glad to know you liked them!

Set 1, 2013, 12:08pm

I saw The Queen's Man yesterday at the used book store in Birmingham, but didn't buy it. I have given myself a book budget and am trying to stick to it. Changing my habits, and all that. I passed it up in favor of some other titles that I have had on my list for awhile. I won't next time.

Set 1, 2013, 1:13pm

@ 32 -- Ivy, 1193 sounds about right. I seem to remember that Richard is away on crusade and John is acting as regent during the Justin de Quincy books.

Set 1, 2013, 3:03pm

I just finished The Greatest Knight and I think that it was a great followup for Devil's Brood.

I agree with Christina that Geoffrey seemed to be the one son with the best "governing" ability. IMO Hal was too childish trying always to make everyone love him and doing so by lavishing money on them, Richard was too self-centered and combative - war was his favorite activity whether in battle or personal confrontations, and John seemed too insecure and manipulative.

As for Eleanor, I believe that she felt a betrayal of her partnership with Henry when she came across Rosamund in her position and because of her power/position as the Duchess of Aquitaine she wanted as a woman to show to Henry that he had made a serious mistake. Neither Henry or Eleanor were very forgiving of each other.

Certes also drove me a bit crazy too.

Out 18, 2013, 11:58pm

I have to confess that I haven't felt like even starting Devil's Brood yet. Did anyone go on to read Lionheart?

Out 19, 2013, 9:28am

I have a copy of Lionheart on its way to my library branch, so I will probably be starting it soon.

Out 19, 2013, 9:22pm

I put Devil's Brood aside for awhile and just returned to reading it a few days ago. This time I will finish it. I plan on moving on to Lionheart but will only do so when I get done with Devil's Brood.

Out 21, 2013, 11:05am

I'm not planning to read Lionheart this year...I wanted to, but it's not necessary for my challenge anymore, and I really need to focus on challenge reads now!

Out 23, 2013, 7:03pm

I finished Lionheart a couple of days ago. The first 3rd or so was fascinating, but after that I got bogged down with the military actions in the Holy Land. It seemed more straight history than historical fiction and didn't have the liveliness that Penman's books usually have. I do appreciate her insistence on detail, though, and almost all of the book was new information to me. I think most of what I've previously read of Richard's reign has been about what was going on in England while he was gone rather than what he was doing on the Crusade. Overall, I liked it, but I don't think it's the best of the series.

Out 27, 2013, 1:52pm

I found four of the mysteries written by Penman at a used book store yesterday. I didn't hesitate and purchased them. It will be interesting to see how she treats Eleanor and Henry in a purely fictional setting. I am now about half way through with this book and am enjoying it.

Out 27, 2013, 4:54pm

I too finished Lionheart, and was less than impressed. I thought the writing has been diminishing in quality. Stephen & Maud was good, Eleanor & Henry was patchy (and for such a scintilating couple, that was a surprise) and this was just uninspiring. Disappointing.

Out 27, 2013, 5:41pm

@ 41 -- Sadly, I think only 4 have been published so far. I think Penman is planning to return to the series at some point, but I don't know when that will be, unfortunately!

Out 28, 2013, 10:38am

I am halfway through Lionheart and Richard just got married and is on his way to the Holy Land. So far still loving the story.

Nov 6, 2013, 1:35pm

I am almost done with Devil's Brood and think that either Geoffrey or Richard would have made a good king. I think that Richard grew into the job after the death of Hal and that both of these men were smart and capable. Hal was the "dim bulb" of the bunch. Clearly this is still a feudal world and the task for anybody who was going to be king was formidable. The concept of a "nation state" was simply not there. It was all about local politics and retaining autonomy. I never did get a sense that Henry had a clear concept about a nation state. It seemed to me that he thought more along the lines of a loose confederation, perhaps something that resembles the European Union of today. In fact Penman says this on several occasions in the last half of the book. She leads me to believe that a confederation is what Henry was after and I wonder if that is historically accurate from the documentation that we have regarding that time period?

Nov 8, 2013, 8:41am

Im about 2/3 done Lionheart and finding it fascinating. Yes, the military action is a bit boring but the characters and their petty rivalries are keeping me going.

Nov 8, 2013, 4:46pm

I finished Devil's Brood and hope to start reading Lionheart next month. I have to say that I enjoyed this book more than I did the first two in this series. It reminded me of my experience with the Raj Quartet. It took me a year to read the first book, less time for the second, and by the time I got to the fourth I read it in a few weeks. I think it was over long and full of an incredible level of detail. I think this book could have been split into two books. I wonder why the publisher thought a 736 page book was OK? Especially one with this level of detail.