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The Book of Eleanor: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine Paperback – March 25, 2003


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The Book of Eleanor: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine + Banners of Gold: A Novel + Shield of Three Lions: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609808095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609808092
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,143,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I think that the author took too many liberties with her subject.
Judith Miller
The main problem, however, is that the writer is too afraid of her characters' actions and the consequences to actually face up to what happens to them.
Charlene Vickers
This is the first book I've ever read where it was so poorly written I couldn't bear to finish it.
Turtle in the City

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By NewWorldSmurf VINE VOICE on August 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is noted on the endpapers that it took Pamela Kaufman fifteen years to reasearch and complete "The Book of Eleanor." Judging by the book I read, the manuscript must have spent fourteen and a half of those years in a drawer someplace.
Eleanor of Aquitaine has always been an attractive subject for those interested in medieval history--in a time when women counted only as brood mares, she managed to gain enormous power not only as the wife to two kings and mother to two more, but as duchess of Aquitaine and countess of Poitou in her own right. When her story is presented well (and, like other reviewers, I will also cite Sharon Kay Penman's novels as examples), she is trememdously fascinating. In the hands of Pamela Kaufman, however, she is a shrill, imperious self-centered harpy. If that wasn't bad enough, Kaufman throws in a completely--and admittedly--fictional love affair between Eleanor and her Aquitanian captain and asks the reader to believe that this man fathered three of Eleanor's children, including the future Richard Lionheart. Also, Kaufman's Eleanor is dragged kicking and screaming into her second marriage to Henry of England, while history strongly indicates Eleanor wanted the marriage and probably had a hand in arranging it. Add in other enormous historical liberties and just plain bad writing (Kaufman is inordinately fond of exclamation points and crudity for crudity's sake) and you have what could have been a very original novel become an exercise in tedium. There are many excellent books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Eleanor of Aquitaine. "The Book of Eleanor" is not one of them.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on September 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Filled with romantic poetry from the famous "courts of love" of ancient Aquitaine and Poitiers, Pamela Kaufman's Book of Eleanor has incredible shelf appeal.....the reviews are spectacular; Washington Post says it;s "absolutely splendid;" the Sun-Times "superbly written;" and the Kansas City Star goes so far as to have it rivaling Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Wow!.....at least that's what I thought when I got my copy. This one is written for fans of romance, not for historical novel afficionados. Let me explain the strong points of Kaufman's writing, which are probably best said by the review from the Detroit Free Press on the back of the dust jacket, where the publishers have excerpted the phrase "amusing historical novel." That's the most accurate of all the reviews, with the emphasis on amusing and a focus on the romantic speculation that has surrounded the relationship between Eleanor and the troubadour Bernard of Ventadour.
Kaufman fans the flames of ancient speculation and creates a romance novel where Ventadour evolves into not only the legendary songsmith that he may well have been, but also a warrior knight every bit the equal of Richard the Lionhearted (who Kaufman makes not only the student of the troubadour, but also his son!) So it's obvious that Kaufman crafts her novel around the legend that there was a romantic relationship between Eleanor and Ventadour. This is the primary nugget of the entire tale that weaves itself into the first 30 of the 31 chapters. The lovers engage in hidden assignations where half of Eleanor's famous "devil's brood" of infant kings-to-be are conceived along with the political revolutions that will in the end foil Henry II's empire building.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charlene Vickers on November 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
The basic premise of the book is that after being raped by King Louis on her wedding day and finding out ten days later that she had become pregnant, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who in this book is a whiny professional victim, turns to the handsome Bernard of Ventadour. She and Ventadour remain together through thick and thin; the singer eventually fathers at least one of her children, Richard the Lionhearted.

There are so many problems with this book that I don't know if I can list them in the space given. Historically, it's a mess. Far from a rapist, Louis was so afraid of the wages of sin that he could barely force himself to have sex with his own wife! Eleanor said about him, "I thought I was marrying a man, but I married a monk." The idea that he attacked Eleanor is absurd. The troubadour with whom Eleanor was supposed to be having an affair paid courtly attention to her - as did many men; it was the style at the time to pay court to an unavailable woman while having mistresses of one's own. Even the minor characters are badly drawn; most of the men save Bernard and Richard the Lionhearted are made to be pure evil, and Richard is shown to have loved women exclusively, something at odds with most historical accounts of the man.

The main problem, however, is that the writer is too afraid of her characters' actions and the consequences to actually face up to what happens to them. When Eleanor is raped by Louis, for instance, Eleanor passes out just before the rape and wakes up just afterwards, sparing the character (and the writer) the nasty business in between. Yet her actions after the rape are those of a woman who *experienced* a great horror, not one that passed out before a great horror was committed on her. It just doesn't ring true.
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