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The Book of Eleanor (P. Kaufman)

2004-09-06 3 min read Books marco

Isn’t it a bit scary if the heroine in a book about the Middle Ages looks airbrushed? I thought so, too. And yet, this novel is not a fake. Eleanor of Aquitaine is certainly a wonderful character to portray in a novel, and Pamela Kaufman does an outstanding job at clarifying a life that seems at odds with itself and its times.
Eleanor grows up the hier of the Duke of Aquitaine, one of the most powerful duchies in France. Intrigues and deception dominate her youth, just as courtship and love do. Just as she finds the love of her life, she is to marry the future King of France in a marriage that is to wed the riches of her duchy to the power of the king.
Alas, turns out the king is a real bore, domineered by clerics who want to evince a life of frustration from him. Eleanor is annoyed and wants out, since the king is after her land and not after her beauty.
She ends up following the fool to the Holy Land, where his ineptitude almost crushes the entire army. She’s got the love of her life with her, so he gets a chance to prove how wonderful he is. Of course, that causes the king’s ire, and everything almost comes to an abrupt end.
Later on, she gets an annullment feigning consanguineity and depravity. The king marries another woman, and just when Eleanor thinks she can get the love of her life, the King of England marches in, rapes her, gets her pregnant and carries her off to his home land.
As it were, that’s where the book starts. Eleanor has once more committed some heinous act of betrayal and is to be carted off to Wales to die in a rotting tower. She will survive and write this book as a memento.
Ok, and I started saying it was credible, why?
Maybe it’s the fact that the vast majority of successful writers certainly focus on the female sex when writing. Eleanor quite doesn’t seem credible as a warm and gentle woman. To survive in the climate of the time, she must have been ruthless and cruel, at times, but in this book, only the bad guys are.
There’s nothing wrong with a classic plot line of good vs. evil in a novel about the Middle Ages, so I can’t really fault the author. Still, I wonder how much the book would have benefited from a more balanced look.
The writing itself is very compelling, and the pace in the story quite easy to follow. Pamela Kaufman surely deserves her bestseller status, given the craft and sheer intelligence she brings to the development of the story.