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Joanna: The Notorious Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily Hardcover – 11 Nov 2010
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the remarkable story of her life (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY - October 2010)
The exceptionally dramatic and previously unchronicled life of the medieval queen Joanna ISee all Product description
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Joanna had her time cut out dealing with power hungry, sanctimonious popes, cardinals and archbishops, not to mention a hoard of secular, power hungry males of one kind and another. Sadly, it all gets a bit much at times and I found myself saying: 'Cut out the cackle and get on with telling us about this remarkable woman Joanna.' Then you read through pages and pages and ask: 'What's become of Joanna? Where is she?' Maybe this work should have been entitled: 'The Life and Times of Joanna, Queen of Naples.'
Then again, the work jumps around too much. It begins with an account of Joanna's trial for murder before the pope, when this could have best been narrated in chronological order as the reader is guided through Joanna's life. Fortunately, the work is well indexed with helpful notes and bibliography and also contains several helpful colour illustrations, excellent maps and genealogical tables. A good way to benefit from this work is to use these aids and look up what you want to find out and read it up in the relevant pages. For instance, if you need to find out as much as possible about Joanna, consult her name in the index and read about her on the relevant pages. For example, if it's the battle of Crecy you're interested in, look it up and you'll find the description of it is on pp 162-64. Then again, if you want to find out what's become of Joanna, look her up in the index and find her again.
This work has been well researched. However, if you want to find out about Joanna, use it as a reference work rather than read as if it were a novel. It's truly remarkable how well she ruled and did so much for her people in the midst of a deluging plethora of scheming male intrigue. She was married several times and was accused of murdering one of her husbands, but was cleared of doing so. Apart from anything else, this works offers an interesting insight into European life during a large part of the Fourteenth Century. I'm just deducting the one star for what I regard as its often unnecessary tediousness. But, my, Nancy Goldstone certainly knows her stuff!
This biography is very well written, using all the available evidence to produce a believable personality behind the Queen.
In fact, both the writer and the heroine of this book are examples of excellent women: the former is sophisticated, erudite, witty, beautiful and an excellent writer. The latter, Joanna I of Sicily, Naples and Jerusalem (although she had no power in either Siciliy or Jerusalem) was politically astute, beautiful, ruthless when required and humane when possible.
I don't usually read about the middle ages but this book certainly motivates me to change that. Joanna's life reads like an exciting novel. From a very young age Joanna (an Angevin descendant of Charles of Anjou) had to struggle to maintain power, both against members of her extended family as well as against popes and foreign invaders (Hungarians, surprisingly!) who were bent on stealing her kingdoms. Against the odds she succeeded for a long time, even managing to briefly control Sicily (this had eluded all her predecessors since Charles of Anjou).
As said, this book is very well written and a pleasure to read.
Joanna (1326-82) married at age 7 to Andrew Of Hungary and widowed before aged 20 when Andrew was assassinated.Her kingdom was attacked by King of Hungary to avenge Andrews death she was then tried for murder but was exhonorated by Pope Clement who became her mantor. She eventually recovered her kingdom sucessfully for 30 years but on the way 3 children and 3 further husbands died. She was assassinated in 1382.( Assassinations seemed to be the sport of the 14th centuary)
The book would have had my private 10 star rating if it had a)a list of characters and b) a chronology of Joannas life .
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