When Christ and His Saints Slept, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


With this novel Sharon Penman moves to a new set of characters and to 12th Century England and the early civil war between Stephen and his cousin, The Empress Made - A long fight to won the English throne.

Stephen was handsome, unreliable and beguiling. Maude was courageous, beautiful and insanely arrogant.

They fought for twenty years and devastated England.

Their flair for dramatic events and immense catastrophes made sure that they were never boring.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9780140166361



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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

This is the first, chronologically, of Sharon Penman’s historical novels. She introduced a number of characters from the period starting January 1101 to October 1154. Just under 900 pages suffices to bring the story right the way through from the reasons why Stephen and Maude fought over the English throne to the campaign itself. There are a number of protagonists and all in all, this book gives you an excellent grounding in the period it covers. I know a great deal more than I did before and am moving onto Ms Penman’s next novel, Time and Chance. She is an excellent novelist and I shall be reading the whole series.

Review by

A Sad and Tragic Period in England's History and truly a time when Christ and his Saints slept. A fascinating, complicated tale with a huge cast of characters, many with similar names. It was hard to keep track of at times, a list of who's who at the front of the book would have been helpful, as SKP did in the next book, Time and Chance. The characters were well written, and I appreciated that neither Stephen (who did steal the crown) nor Maude were written as black and white/evil vs. saint -- all had flaws in their characters. Adding the fictional Ranulf gave a nice perspective to the tale. I also appreciated the way the author brought us the viewpoints of the common folk, who didn't care who ruled, as long as there was peace. The first 2/3 of the book are mostly about the civil conflict between the two parties and can drag on a bit, but the last part when Henry started coming into power and married Eleanor of Aquitaine the sparks were fairly flying off the pages. I am now starting on Time and Chance and eagerly awaiting more on this dynamic pair. As I said, a great book to read. It isn't quite Here be Dragons, et al but enjoyable all the same

Review by

A fascinating, but frustrating, account of the civil unrest between Maude, hereditary heir to the throne of England, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. Following the death of Henry I, Maude is expecting to be crowned Queen, but before she can return to England her cousin has been crowned King.All the elements of a great book are there, detailed historic research and excellent writing but this remains my least favourite Penman book. The problem lies with the two central characters – Maude is remembered, by history, as being haughty and aloof, whilst Stephen was regarded as weak and ineffectual. Penman tries to round off their personalities, but, for me, they remain unlikeable. I found myself unable to sympathise with either of them, and kept wishing that Maude’s illegitimate elder brother, Robert, had been crowned King.The latter part of the book sees greater involvement from Maude’s son, Henry II, and it is here that things begin to improve. His wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is another ‘big’ personality and perhaps it is their dominance that overshadows Maude and Stephen. The story skips along when their characters are predominant and that saves this book.

Review by

By times I loved this book and by times I was frustrated by this book. Perhaps the addition of the fictional Ranulf is the source. At times the Ranulf FitzRoy character moves the story onto a tangent that doesn't seem to contribute to the main story. It's a hefty book and these tangents only dragged out the story for me. I do admire how Penman breathes life into the historical characters and gives them a greater depth. Not only Stephen and Maude, but also Robert FitzRoy, Eleanor of Acquitaine and Henry II all receive very sympathetic treatment. This is the first of Penman's works I have read. I will be looking for more.

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