Customer Review

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh..., May 29, 2010
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This review is from: Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hardcover)
I'd really enjoyed Alison Weir's first novel, liked her second, and seriously - a novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most fascinating figures of the 12th century? How could you go wrong?

Like Weir's previous novel, "The Lady Elizabeth," this one is in third person limited, which arguably is an easier tense to pull off than say, first person POV, but unfortunately it's not done all that well here. Also as in "The Lady Elizabeth," the novel starts off too slowly, with way too many POV shifts, overwriting, and too much telling and not enough showing. Then there's the overblown, tedious and often cringe-tastic descriptions of sexy times between Eleanor and Henry (loads of "long and sensual journeys", "I have never felt like this with a woman before", an "undreamed-of capacity for pleasure" and so forth) ... overshadowed only by the breathless purple prose describing Eleanor's fond recollections (just how fond, we are given FAR too much information about) of her liaisons with some bloke called Marcabru and her soon-to-be father-in-law, Geoffrey of Anjou some years before, which would not be out of place in an erotic romance novel and provided an early WTF? moment. Rumours (for which, if I recall correctly, there is no evidence) about Eleanor's supposed affairs with other men during her marriage with Louis are also resurrected in this book. True, it's fiction, so the author is entitled to explore "what ifs," but in this case, it didn't work in the context of the novel; furthermore, it's more refreshing when an historical novel doesn't fall back on oft-recycled myths.

I found it very hard going for the first third, and almost didn't persist. I'm glad to say that once the heated-romance stuff is mostly out of the way (although there are some equally cheesy, clichéd sex scenes between Henry and Rosamund Clifford, for example, to come), things start to get more interesting once the inevitable conflict between two such powerful, passionate and stubborn people surfaces.

What I particularly liked about "Captive Queen" was the depiction of the relationship between Henry, Eleanor and Thomas Becket, and Weir provides an interesting explanation for the complex friendship between the two men. The depiction of the conflict between Henry and his sons, and the sons with each other, is also quite well done, although again, it falls back on a number of legends and clichés which mostly - as I understand it - have no foundation in fact.

As in her previous novels, Weir provides a reasonably comprehensive author's note disclosing the liberties she has taken, which is always appreciated.

I really expected to like this one, but regret to say I was underwhelmed, especially soon after having read Sharon Kay Penman's terrific version of the same events (Time and Chance: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) and Devil's Brood: A Novel). It's not totally horrible, it just didn't quite work for me and IMHO is far from Weir's best work; nor do I think Weir did her subject and her long and eventful life justice. Overall, two and a half stars, rounded up to three.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 29, 2010 8:50:57 AM PDT
Misfit says:
Well at least Weir didn't have her doing it with Salidin like Alan Savage did. I've heard enough about this that I believe I will pass, library or not.

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2010 4:24:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2010 4:36:31 PM PDT
Rachel says:
Indeed(although we have her reminiscing about her affair with Uncle Raymond ... sigh. I might have given Weir more points had she gone the Eleanor/Empress Matilda route, actually - bizarre, yes, but at least it's not a cliché!). I actually saw the review on Shelf of Shame after I posted this one - and a number of reviewers on Amazon UK had the same reaction as I did - so I'm glad it's not just me!

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2010 9:26:21 AM PDT
Misfit says:
I don't know why they feel the need to twist history for the sake of drama. The real stuff is fascinating enough as it is. Look at Penman FGS.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2010 4:48:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2010 4:11:46 AM PDT
Rachel says:
It bemuses me too. I saw a ludicrous comment on Marie Burton's blog from that person who goes nuts on reviews of Brandy Purdy's work, attacking people who dare to post even an obliquely critical comment: "The Tudors cry out for sensationalism." WHAT???? It's a bizarre attitude that history has to be "sexed up" to make it more interesting - most of the events of the Middle Ages you couldn't make up if you tried. It says a lot about what authors and/or publishers think of the reading public - implicit in this is the attitude is that people are too dumb or unsophisticated to find the real history interesting, so let's turn it into Paris-Hilton-plays-dress-up! Grrrrr.

EDIT: Interesting. The only critical review on this book so far and I get hit with two negs within a day of posting. Further, all comments on this review cop a no vote. (By the way I don't see how a comment that *starts* a discussion does not "add" to it, but whatever.) I'm *sure* it can't be a fan arbitrarily attacking critical reviews of Weir's work, so I'll just say this: sorry this review didn't work for you, Anony-voter; I'll try to do better next time.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2010 1:44:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2010 1:46:36 PM PDT
Misfit says:
Oh gawd, guess what I just won off of Librarything. Now I have to try it.

As for commenting on reviews of BP's work, those are entertaining to follow indeed. I fail to see how snarking critical reviews can help one's friend but she keeps trying. I got hit by a couple of rude commenters recently myself. I really don't get the feeling it's a casual amazon commenter myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2010 2:41:30 PM PDT
ash says:
I was just about the do a copy and paste of my UK review, but its not letting me post here. Any idea why not? I want to be the first to give this book a one star.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2010 5:56:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2010 5:58:11 PM PDT
Rachel says:
Ash, that's weird. Is it that it's not showing up once you post it, or there's just no "add your review" button at all? The latter happened to me, but I eventually found an edition that would let me post a review. If they're just not putting it up, that's silly - there's absolutely nothing in your UK review they could have a problem with.

Misfit: oh my! You'll have to let me know what you think. Re: BP's mate, she just doesn't get it. In her own review, she now describes those who think that if publishers alter titles, they should at least fully disclose it so people aren't buying multiple editions (even though her friend the actual author seems just as hacked off about this as customers), as "crackpots" who don't get the "book business." Noice.

No, somehow - and I may be cynical - I don't think my mystery voter is a casual review reader, especially since neither of the positive reviews have negative votes. Luckily I'm yet to encounter trollish comments on my own reviews, but I'm sure that day will come. I saw the ones on your review of "Secrets of the Tudor Court", including the one from the sock who keeps renaming herself before she deleted it (does this remind us of someone we know? Hmmm).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2010 6:26:11 PM PDT
ash says:
aHa! I just needed to change to another edition, thanks for the tip. Review is up. We'll see how many negatives I get (tho to be honest, I rarely pay attention to those when I am reading reviews because I know how meaningless it really is.) Thanks for the help

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2010 4:50:23 AM PDT
Misfit says:
Hehe, you can always tell when the mystery voter has a vested interest in the reviews, can't you?

As for those comments on the Tudor book, quite nasty weren't they? Apparently its become bad blogger etiquette to *gasp* post a negative review and knock a book, as well as hiding behind a moniker on Amazon instead of *gasp* using one's real name. Ummmm, Klausner anyone? I decided to address that by adding some comments on my profile.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2010 3:58:44 PM PDT
Rachel says:
Really? I thought being careful about using your real name online was just common sense - especially considering how spiteful some people can get here (like your commenter on the Tudor book). And heaven forbid anyone be honest! Obviously I'd be a bad-mannered blogger too, then. Just saw your comments on your profile on the issue and ... well said!

Oh dear, I just found yet another review of something that spent most of the time telling other reviewers to "Lighten up! It's FICTION!!! If you want accuracy watch a documentary!" That must be review number 1022831 of that nature. Honestly, is there some kind of fanpoodle review template or something? Apparently, it's also poor form to want some actual HISTORICAL in your FICTION.
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3.0 out of 5 stars (102 customer reviews)
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