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The Book of Eleanor

The Book of Eleanor

4.0 12
by Pamela Kaufman
Eleanor of Aquitaine—dazzling Queen of France and England, shrewd politician, passionate lover—has been celebrated throughout history by her contemporaries, descendents, and biographers. You may remember Katharine Hepburn’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Eleanor in The Lion in Winter, or Alison Weir’s recent New York Times bestselling


Eleanor of Aquitaine—dazzling Queen of France and England, shrewd politician, passionate lover—has been celebrated throughout history by her contemporaries, descendents, and biographers. You may remember Katharine Hepburn’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Eleanor in The Lion in Winter, or Alison Weir’s recent New York Times bestselling biography of Eleanor. In this mesmerizing new novel by bestselling author Pamela Kaufman, Eleanor’s story springs to life as never before, revealing the complex inner workings of one of the greatest women in history. Torn between her devotion to her chosen lover and her responsibility to her children and their political destinies; headstrong and proud, yet seized as a pawn by power-hungry men—Eleanor is a timeless and gripping heroine. Combining meticulous research with the seductive touch of a master storyteller, Pamela Kaufman speaks to us in Eleanor’s voice, drawing us deeply into the richly textured world of medieval royalty, and into the unforgettable life that has captured imaginations for centuries. This guide is designed to help direct your reading group’s discussion of Kaufman’s stunning The Book of Eleanor.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Medieval chronicler Kaufman (Shield of Three Lions; Banners of Gold) turns her attention to the eponymous Eleanor of Aquitaine in this earnest first-person account of life, power and passion in 12th-century Europe. The novel opens in 1174 with the kidnapping of 52-year-old Eleanor by the men of her second husband, Henry II. Wanting to keep Eleanor's sons from the throne, Henry sentences her to imprisonment in the drafty Welsh tower of Old Sarum for 17 years, where she uses her time to pen the autobiographical account forming the body of the book. When she was 15, the beautiful, spirited daughter of the duke of Aquitaine fell in love with her kinsman, Baron Rancon, but had to forsake him to marry the religiously obsessed and sexually repressed King Louis VII of France for political gain. After she was granted an annulment finally approved by the pope, Eleanor planned to wed Rancon, but she was kidnapped and forced into marriage once again by the ambitious, redheaded Henry II, duke of Normandy and soon-to-be king of England. Henry and Eleanor, both natural leaders, are an explosive pair, but Eleanor will not give up Rancon, defying Henry until the end. Kaufman peppers her narrative with snatches from troubadour songs and interjections like "God's eyes!" but the tale lacks atmospheric richness. However, her presentation of one of history's larger-than-life heroines as an early feminist will engage and entertain readers with an interest in the life stories of powerful women. (Mar.) Forecast: Kaufman's novel lacks the verve of Rosalind Miles's Guenevere trilogy, but the perennial appeal of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the general popularity of feminist-inflected historical fiction should assure respectable sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Though one might question the need for another novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine, this version by Kaufman makes even such well-traveled territory fresh. Narrator Eleanor recalls her life and her family in fascinating detail, with stories of everyone from her grandfather, the first troubadour, to her many children a who's who of the heads of Europe. Among the characters are Eleanor's two husbands, Louis VII and Henry II; Thomas Becket; the nasty Bernard of Clairvaux; and the cunning but somehow lovable Abbot Suger of Saint Denis. There is a Crusade, and there are battles. There is also a romance, which, in the true spirit of courtly love, involves neither of Eleanor's husbands. Above all, though, there is Eleanor, with a wit and spirit so fierce that she is able to stand beside and even above the most powerful men in the Western world during a time when women are considered by the Church to be a biological afterthought. As in her previous medieval novels (Banners of Gold, Shield of Three Lions), Kaufman renders the details with perfection the sounds, sights, and (often unpleasant) smells. For all historical fiction collections. [Sharon Kay Penman also retells the story of Eleanor and Henry in Time and Chance, the second volume in her historical trilogy. Ed.] Wendy Bethel, Southwest P.L., Columbus, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A romantic take on the powerful medieval queen. A central figure in the 12th-century wars between France and England, Eleanor, at 15, became Duchess of Aquitaine, a wealthy and independent French province coveted by both countries. While still a teenager, she married Louis VII, a religious zealot who kept her closely confined, and after years of conflict, she persuaded the Pope to annul her marriage. Within a year she married again, this time to the brutal English Henry II. Despite bearing him eight children, the two came to hate each other. As her children grew, she persuaded them to revolt against their father, who in turn imprisoned her for 17 years, though in the end she had the last laugh, serving as regent after his death while her son, Richard the Lionhearted, crusaded in the Holy Land. Historians are silent on Eleanor's sex life, but Kaufman (Shield of Three Lions, 1983) well understands that romance requires romance and so she invents the great Baron Rancon of Aquitaine and recounts a secret, dangerous, and passionate affair, Eleanor's only consistent joy during years of unhappiness. Kaufman is unarguably an expert on the period, but her tale is told at the level of, say, a Hollywood epic, whose historical characters behave like modern Americans except for the funny clothes. Heroine Eleanor is a fiery queen, dazzlingly beautiful yet as skilled in statecraft and horsemanship as any man. She's also a feminist, outraged at the treatment of women in medieval Europe. Because Kaufman doesn't re-create a world through the narrative, she is forced to stop the action periodically and have a character to deliver a lecture on, say, the structure of feudalism (" . .. any child knows thesystem of homage and overlords. My father used to call it a pyramid with the king at the top . . . "). Historical fiction for the Barbara Cartland set.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.62(d)

Meet the Author

Pamela Kaufman, Ph.D., is the author of the bestselling medieval novels Shield of Three Lions and Banners of Gold. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Book of Eleanor 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a tourism student with a true fascination with European history, I found this novel to be entertaining if not intellectually stimulating. Following her heart-wrenching love-affair, determination to save her children, and her unwillingness to let her beloved Aquitaine be conquered, the reader falls head-over-heels for this tragic Queen. Kaufman weaves a tale of tears, courage, and hope which any fan of History can enjoy and appreciate. I highly recommend this beautiful tapestry of historic fact and fictional glory.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good story, with one of my favourite historical characters ever, but I was very disappointed with some of the portrayals of Eleanor. In a time when most modern historians discredit the scandalous rumours that Eleanor had ever been unfaithful to her husband(s), and when just about every historian (modern and otherwise) can give account that Eleanor was not only willing to marry Henry but very eager, I found this novel to be something of a comedy. The discriptions of her 'courts of love' are lude and unnecessary, the way she manipulated her children in these 'courts' was disgusting, and they tragic but happy ending after her imprisonment made it sound as if everything was simply perfect, but for Eleanor's age, I do say.. please. Great if you love fiction, bad if you like fact.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eleanor of Aquitaine is without a doubt one of the most intriguing women in history, and various fictional interpretations have been put on her life and character. Pamela Kaufman's Eleanor is strong, assertive, and politically astute. Not easy when you are a woman in the Middle Ages. Miss Kaufman does sacrifice some historical detail in her focus on politics and dialogue, but Eleanor lived a long (82 years) and full life, and lengthy details of costume and setting might have detracted from the narrative. The author does a creditable job in covering Eleanor's marriages to two kings, her passionate love affair with a knight, her relationships with her ten children - not to mention the lady's endless political maneuvering. This is a lively account, with an Eleanor most modern women will love. As an aside: Those who think modern song lyrics are shameless will REALLY blush at some of the ancient verses sung at Eleanor's "court of love".
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have for years been fascinated by the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and when this novel came out I wasted no time in reading it. It is a very detailed piece of fiction that is definitely worth the time and money. I have read and own many of the biographies of Eleanor, but this novel has something these historical documents do not contain: the thoughts of Eleanor, so researched and so possibly near to what Eleanor may have been thinking. The Book of Eleanor has also put to light some interesting new theories never put into print in other books. A definite recomendation.