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Below the Salt Hardcover – August, 1981

16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Doubleday (August 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038504884X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385048842
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,944,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By rpiatt on September 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
My father left me this book when he passed away. Had I known my father had such good taste in books I would have asked what else he liked to read! I must admit, I read it more out of obligation than desire (my preferred genre is Fantasy) but boy-oh-boy was I in for a surprise. This has to be one of the best novels I've ever read. I'm not much of a history buff so this was my first novel set in an historical setting. The characters were superbly developed. I am sure I would know Richard, Tostig and Eleanor if I saw them walking down the street - as a matter of fact, I'd probably propose to Eleanor on the spot. On the historical side it was invigorating to have an entirely believable setting for the novel. The author clearly has masterful control over a wealth of knowledge concerning life in the Middle Ages. Mr. Costain not only writes authoritatively, but he almost brings you to the point of letting you `live' in Ireland / England during that period of time -- from a humble peasant's hovel to a King's castle, you'll know what life was all about. And the ending of the book has a unique twist to it that caught me totally off guard. I loved everything about this book save this single item: I finished it too fast. My recommendation is for a full five stars ... I'd prefer giving this book six stars if possible. Read it, you won't regret it.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I first came across this book on my mother's bookshelf when I was about 12 years old. An inveterate bookworm, I started reading, and could not stop. I have read this book many times over the ensuing 27 years, most recently two weeks ago. The story is still riveting, and parts of it can still move me to tears. As a result of reading this book, I actually went to the field of Runnymede when I was a student in England in 1981. The bus driver was sure that, as an American, I'd be wanting the JFK memorial just over the hill, but I assured him that I was bound for Runnymede. It it lovely and empty and still, except for a small stone monument, erected by the American Bar Association, celebrating the Magna Carta as the beginning of real freedom for all men under law. Had I not read this book, I might never have made the effort to visit.
I enjoyed the characters immensely and, while I have over time read other books just as compelling, and with perhaps grittier writing, I still come back to this lovely, familiar tale for inspiration. Two weeks ago I reached for it because I was preparing a presentation (for a graduate class) about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and reading about her life stirred memories of this book.
If you can find it, read it!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Judy H. on February 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
England's King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had many children, the most famous of whom were Richard the Lionheart and John "Lackland". Another son, Geoffrey, died before his parents, but left 2 children: Arthur and Eleanor. And thereby hangs this tale.
The historical record relates that after the death of Richard Lionheart, the evil John usurped the throne that should have gone to his older brother Geoffrey's son Arthur, and that to solidfy his claim, he murdered Arthur and swept Eleanor into a convent, where she was never to be seen or heard from again.
In this wonderful, imaginative book, the author keeps to most of the historical record, but asserts that after the death of her brother, Arthur, Eleanor was spirited away to safety by William the Marshal.
The story starts in the present day, and details the efforts of a descendent of Marshal to find the lineal descendent of Eleanor, who would be the de jure Queen of England. The story weaves back and forth between the present day and 13th century England, and is absolutely riveting.
If you like English history, and especially if you like what-if situations, this is a great book.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kay's Husband on April 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the premier writers of the late 1940s, 1950s, into the 1960s with one of his last books being "The Last Love" a novel concerning Napoleon, Mr. Thomas B. Costain had an almost unparalleled series of successful books. Some fiction and some not, this book "Below The Salt" is fiction yet with admixture of much fact, and it sits on my shelf along side the boxed 4 volume set of the Plantagenets: The Conquering Family, The Magnificent Century, The Three Edwards, and The Last Plantagenets. I know of no one outside academia to have written as much on Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard Couer de Lion, King John, William Marshal, and others of their time.

But to this book, BELOW THE SALT, Mr. Costain uses the royal family of England and Normandy (Angevin England 1154-1258), the Plantagenets, as a prism through which to focus on the Magna Charta, A.D. 1215, and the rights of the common man as required due to the acts of King John, nicknamed either 'Lackland' or 'Softsword'. Or as the dust jacket states the Magna Charta "thus contributed so much to the liberties of future generations". A recent book by Frank McLynn, "Richard and John, Kings At War" will round out any reader's interest past Below The Salt.

As I believe one reviewer correctly states, Below The Salt may seem a bit slow at start, but once Book Two begins the reader is thrown backward 700 years to views from both the Norman and Saxon, with much information concerning those 'below the salt', that is, those not of landed, noble position and wealth whose place at table was always 'below the salt' with the dregs and dogs of that age's time.

An attempt of an aging Senator from the U.S.
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