Tuesday 3 April 2012
Eleanor of Aquitaine - Alison Weir
I have been wanting to read more on Eleanor of Aquitaine ever since I read She-Wolves by Helen Castor. It was such a fantastic book but it was limited on the time it could spend on Eleanor because it was covering other powerful Queens. This one was a little disappointing at first. It lacked the passion behind Castor's work. As a result I found it difficult to engage with at first. I persevered with and the next minute I am half way through and finding it difficult to put down. Maybe passion would have been hard to keep up and so slow and methodical worked better.
The main thing is I learned lots of new facts about Eleanor. What I loved about Weir's book is that she didn't just include the facts. She included rumours and theories that have cropped up about Eleanor ever since her reign. Even well into the 19th century. She would then dispute why they might or might not be true. If left me feeling like I not only had a better idea of Eleanor but an idea of how her life has continued to influence people. In fact until recently she wasn't seen in a particularly good light. It's only now that people see beyond the stories of her 'wicked' ways and see her as rather intelligent, strong and politically knowledgeable.
One of my favourite chapters was more about life in England than about Eleanor herself. At this point she had married King Henry and was about to arrive in England for the first time (she actually spent more of her life in France). At first I was a little frustrated by it as I wanted Weir to continue with Eleanor's story but I was soon caught up by the interest of it. Plus it made sense to show the differences that Eleanor would face. One example is that gang crime was a problem in London back then. To the extent that no one would leave their homes after curfew. I was intrigued by the reference to King Arthur. Even in those days the courts of Europe were fascinated by him. In Eleanors day the stories were seen more of as spoken history than myth.
Other than my interest in Royal history the whole point in reading this was for the Mixing it Up challenge. This was for the history category. History isn't exactly out of my comfort zone which is why I picked an author who is. I have a mental (book snobbery) block when it comes to Alison Weir. Years ago I had a friend who loved her books and despite enjoying history I was wary. I couldn't see how someone who produced so many books on so many different historical figures could be accurate. Then she began bringing out historical fiction which just added to my wariness (and yet people who cross fiction genres don't bother me). So this was my attempt to get over it and I am glad to say that it worked. It's not the best history book that I have ever read but I still enjoyed it. There were a few things I felt were missing and it focused almost too much on Henry II and their sons. I have to put that down to lack of information from that time though. I would definitely read more by this author though.
The Mixing it up challenge is organised by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl. You can see the other categories I am going to take part in and have covered already in my first post here.