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Cruel as the Grave

Readers of The Queen's Man, Sharon Kay Penman's first book about young Justin de Quincy, will feel right at home as Justin--the bastard son of a bishop-- continues to help England's aged Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine find out if her son, Richard the Lionheart, is still alive in a German prison while trying to keep another son, John, from usurping the throne. Newcomers might take a few more pages, but Penman's skill at making the daily life of 1193 England so immediately accessible should soon have them equally comfortable. Why would a messenger grab his mantle but not his boots before jumping out of a Winchester bawdy house window on a mild April night? Because that's where a treasonous message is hidden. What would Justin and his friend Luke have for supper at a Thameside cookshop? "Pork-filled pie and ginger wafers, washed down with cider." Why was "breakfast the day's dubious meal, not quite respectable"? Because, Penman tells us, "people were supposed to be able to satisfy themselves with a hearty dinner and a lighter supper." Details like these bond us quickly with distant ancestors--and make us wonder what particulars of our own lives will be fodder for future writers of historical fictions. --Dick Adler

Important places

Winchester (59)


Hampshire (229)


United Kingdom (21,421)

Other geographical areas

South East (2,496)
Yorkshire and The Humber (6,115)
North of England (7,026)