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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade

Title: Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography

Author: Marion Meade

First Published: 1977

No. of Pages: 355

Synopsis (from Amazon): "A comprehensive account of the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. The wife of King Louis VII of France and then of King Henry II of England, and mother to Richard Coeur de Lion and King John, she became the key political figure of the 12th century. Eleanor's long life inspired a number of legends. At twenty-five she set out for the Holy Land as a Crusader and at seventy-eight she crossed the Pyreness to Spain to fetch the granddaughter whose marriage would be, she hoped, a pledge of peace between England and France. This is a compassionate biography of this charismatic queen and the world she ruled over."

Fiction or Nonfiction: Nonfiction

Comments and Critique: I've known for years that Eleanor of Aquitaine played an important role in the history of England and France, but not until I read this book did I truly understand just how large and historically important that role was. She was never the type of woman to sit back and let life happen to her -- she was active from her youth through her last years, and not just in the ways that women were traditionally active. She was not only a Crusader, but actually led armies, occasionally against her own husband. She was also incredibly intelligent, politically astute, beautiful, and hardy enough to outlive 2 husbands and 8 of her 10 children. Clearly, a force to be reckoned with.

The book is well-researched and balanced. The persons discussed are presented in as much depth as you could expect this many centuries on. There are no paintings or other artwork to be relied on to give us an idea of what everyone looked like, so you have to use your imagination quite a bit, but that is certainly no fault of the author's. Incidentally, I couldn't help but have a mental picture of Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor the whole way through the book, brought on from her portrayal in "The Lion in Winter," a superb bit of casting and a great movie to watch in conjunction with this book (trivia #1: Katherine Hepburn is actually descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine). I'd also recommend "Becket," with Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as Henry II (trivia #2: Peter O'Toole also played Henry II in The Lion in Winter and was nominated for Best Actor both times).

Challenges: 999 ("Biography"); It's Good to Be Queen

1 comments:

Mary said...

I actually bought the dvd "Lion in Winter" not too long ago. Forgot about it. I need to find it and watch it because I loved it the first time I saw the movie in a theatre.