A novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine was a fascinating woman and a legend; highlights of her life have been recounted numerous times. This historical fiction is yet another side of the turbulent life of one of the world’s most passionate and charismatic queens. The tale is told with vitality and empathy and gives a new dimension on the terrible story of lust and fruitful union which eventually turned into a marriage from hell.
The novel opens in 1152, when Eleanor then married to Louis VII of France and mother of two daughters meet and was smitten by young Henry FitzEmpress (Henry II) who was 11 years her junior. Eleanor’s less-than-fulfilling marriage to Louis VII led her into the arms of Henry and with her divorce and subsequent marriage, they became one of the most powerful unions in Christendom with control over Anjou, Normandy, Brittany, Aquitaine and eventually England, when Henry was crowned king. At first their attraction is magical and filled with lust and passion, their union yields eleven children. Unfortunately through the years their love turns to bitterness and their life begins a fiery downward spiral marred by power struggles, betrayals, bitter rivalries and Eleanor’s long imprisonment.
I enjoy quality historical fiction from time to time but his one left me somewhat disappointed. It took a while to warm up to the characters there was too much emphasis on their bedroom exploits but the modern narrative and language made it easy to understand, however the consequences are, it also resembled a romance novel with all its clichés. The best part of the book in my view is the chapters around events concerning Thomas Beckett; this interesting person spiked my interest.
To say that this novel is not well-written or engaging would be false, Ms. Weir manages to capture the essence of a medieval marriage, one of love and convenience, that led to one of the most extraordinary and tempestuous marriages in history.