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Eleanor of Aquitaine Versus Henry II

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04.05.2011

Advantages:
Realistic Plantagenet historical fiction .

Disadvantages:
Only ruthless characters can maintain power .

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Would you read it again?

Story

Characters

How does it compare to other works by the same author?

ReadabilityExcellent

How does it compare to similar books?Excellent

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Author

The author Alison Weir is an historian with many published factual books. More recently she has tried her hand at historic fiction.

Her first two fiction books are set in the Tudor period. These are Innocent Traitor (about Lady Jane Grey) and The Lady Elizabeth (the less well known earlier years of Elizabeth Tudor, before she became Queen).

Having read and enjoyed these two books, I was looking forward to her latest release The Captive Queen in 2010. This time the reader is transported back to early Plantagenet times, with the tale of Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, who weds the future Henry II of England.

For readers who would prefer to read a factual only account, the author’s biography “Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England” was first published in 1999.

Comparison With Her Other Fiction Books

INNOCENT TRAITOR showed the reader a young, and pious, Lady Jane Grey who was sadly used as a tool by her ambitious relatives. This was a sad story, but with a lead character whose adherence to her principles I admired.

THE LADY ELIZABETH is also the tale of a relatively innocent young lady who is used by ambitious courtiers. I especially liked the way the novel showed how Elizabeth’s character was shaped by the varying influences of those around her.

For me they were both 5 Star reads, with well-balanced, but overall likeable lead characters.

While I appreciated both of these novels equally, the tale I most enjoyed was the Lady Elizabeth, because of the happier ending.

With the author’s academic background, there is no risk of silly historical inaccuracies in her novels. However, where there are gaps in between established facts, she has allowed herself licence to use versions of hearsay, or tried to invent plausible possibilities. Gaps in evidence are usually more likely the further back in time that facts are investigated, so I imagine that her latest novel, set hundreds of years before her two Tudor tales, contains more inspired creative writing.

Plot

The story starts shortly before the strategic marriage of Eleanor, the sole heir of her father the Duke Aquitaine, and England’s future King Henry II.

As I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who do not yet have much knowledge of Plantagenet history, I will just tell you that the majority of this book deals with the lusty power struggle between King and Queen.

For those who have seen the Oscar winning film about this power struggle The Lion in Winter, you can now read about an extended version of the tale, which could have been called The Lion and Lioness in Summer, Autumn and Winter.

I was pleased of the map of France, where much of the action is set, and family trees at the front of the book, which together with the author’s notes at the end, helped me appreciate how the historical facts were put into an entertaining context.

Leading Characters

I think that this is an excellent book about the lusty power struggle between Eleanor of Aquitaine and England’s King Henry II, whose characters came over as extremely conplex.

Co-stars include King Louis VII of France; Thomas Beckett; Princes Henry, Richard (the Lionheart), Geoffrey and John; plus various lovers of the two staring characters.

Alternative

For readers who do not want any creative writing mixed in with their history, I recommend “Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England”, the non-fiction biography by the same historian author.

Recommendation

I found this an engaging read, exploring the life around the historically accurate facts of a ruthless power-hungry family.

I believe that the writing is equally as good as the author’s other two historical fiction books, but slightly less enjoyable, as I found little to like about the ruthless main characters. However, had there been much to like about the stars of the story, I feel that it would have been unrealistic, and so I applaud the author in her attempt to make this period of history accessible to a wider audience than would be interested in bland facts.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to historical fiction fans!


Availability

This is currently available in hardcover, large print paperback, audio and Kindle versions.

The standard paperback version is due to be published on 7 July 2011.


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Comments about this review »

sarahbarrow 06.09.2011 07:14

I really must gets some of her books, they sound my cup of tea x

Collingwood21 06.07.2011 15:54

I'm sure I would enjoy this - I read "Innocent Traitor" a while ago and really liked it.

Jonni_boi 12.06.2011 18:57

I know a lot about this book now, but would much prefer to know more about what you thought.

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Manufacturer's product description

It is the year 1152 and a beautiful woman of thirty, attended by only a small armed escort, is riding like the wind...

Product details

EAN 9780091926212
Type Fiction
Genre Historical Fiction

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Listed on Ciao since 23/04/2010

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The Captive Queen - Alison Weir - review by dawnymarie

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This review of The Captive Queen - Alison Weir has been rated:

"exceptional" by (2%):

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"very helpful" by (90%):

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and 76 other members

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