Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir
While I love biographies and am not afraid of lengthy books (this one is well over 400 pages), sometimes I almost dread starting them – it can be hard to keep all the personalities straight, and how they’re related by blood or marriage.
Weir does a fantastic job of writing her biographies in such a way that I don’t struggle to remember who is who, and who is this other person, and how do they connect to the main character? That may not seem like significant praise, but it’s important to me that if I’m reading a biography for fun, I want to not have to take notes on who the various individuals are. If I’m reading a biography for fun, I want it to be, well, fun. And it is when it’s a biography by Weir. Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s also a novelist, but Weir is excellent at keeping the story going.
With Eleanor of Aquitaine, Weir has a terrific subject – a fascinating personality with so much historical significance. The book is an absorbing account of the life and times of the wife of two kings, and mother of three.
Renowned in her time for being the most beautiful woman in Europe, the wife of two kings and mother of three, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the great heroines of the Middle Ages. At a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel, Eleanor managed to defy convention as she exercised power in the political sphere and crucial influence over her husbands and sons. In this beautifully written biography, Alison Weir paints a vibrant portrait of this truly exceptional woman, and provides new insights into her intimate world. Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a long life of many contrasts, of splendor and desolation, power and peril, and in this stunning narrative, Weir captures the woman— and the queen—in all her glory. With astonishing historic detail, mesmerizing pageantry, and irresistible accounts of royal scandal and intrigue, she recreates not only a remarkable personality but a magnificent past era.
Weir has written numerous biographies and historical novels. If you liked the nonfiction account of Eleanor’s life, you might also enjoy Weir’s fictional take on her story, as told in Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine. For another biography, Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster is supposed to be excellent (it’s on my list to read, and I hope to get to it soon.)
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads, go to the series page.
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