Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Eleanor of Aquitaine" by Alison Weir

Title: Eleanor of Aquitaine
Author: Alison Weir
Published: Ballantine Books, 2000
Where I Got It: The library
Why I Read It: Why not?

Alison Weir, I continue to bow down to you! You never cease to amaze me. I may think I am knowledgeable about a subject/person/era, and you laugh in my face with your wonderful, well-researched, interesting books. You could be a cult leader for all I know; you say something is fact, and I will believe it. This book is no exception.

As her usual non-fiction, Eleanor of Aquitaine is no light read. I found myself struggling through parts of it and wondering if it would ever end. We learn all about every known aspect of Eleanor's life: her lineage, early childhood, marriages, children, feats, and later life. There is a chapter solely about the geography and trade of Aquitaine. Another interesting chapter is about the daily lives of those living in England in the mid-twelfth century. So many facts and tidbits are crammed into this book!

She may have been a very important woman, but there's not all that much historical record of her. There are long periods of Eleanor's life that are just plain missing from records; we don't know where she was or what she was up to. That being said, I still feel in order to fill those gaps we get waayyyyy too in depth into the lives of Louis VI, Henry II and Richard and John. We learn so much about their antics, which is interesting, but I truthfully didn't care about them. I was reading this book for Eleanor, obviously. If Alison Weir had written this book strictly focusing on Eleanor herself, it could have been reduced down to, oh, 100 pages or so and been ten times easier to get through.

I've heard about Eleanor of Aquitaine for a long time and knew the basics of her life, but this was the first book I'd read solely about her. Because of that fact, I felt lost half of the time. I would only recommend this book if you are pretty familiar and comfortable with Eleanor's life. In order to get a clearer picture of her, I'm going to resort to some of Jean Plaidy's fiction, The Courts of Love. Hopefully I'll get a nice, simplified version, then maybe I'll pick up this book again.

3.5 stars.


  1. Yes, but if someone was doing research on life during that period, it would be an excellent resource. I have no idea who she is I'll confess. I'm guessing a queen. But I think that most anything that focuses on that time period is hard to read. Unless it's just complete fiction. Then it's probably really fun!
    I can't wait for you to finish Cleopatra. I want to know what you thought about the book


  2. There's actually quite a bit of resource material on Eleanor. Weir's book is not much more than a lazy mash-up of everyone else's original work, and is riddled with errors that, had she spend a bit more time and energy on digging, she wouldn't have repeated - such as the 'first wife' of William the Troubadour, Ermintrude, who has been quite decisively proven never to have existed, never mind Weir's ludicrous 'diagnosis' of schizophrenia 900 years after the fact. If you really wanted something more serious, I'd recommend Ralph V. Turner's Eleanor of Aquitaine (Yale U Press) instead - highly readable and extremely well researched.



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