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Well this is OK, but ...
on 14 April 2010
... quite a lot of "buts" actually!
I think the first one is that this is way, way too short a novel to begin to do justice to Eleanor's life, even given that Weir does start when she is thirty, meeting the future Henry II for the first time. Now I know that there is very little actual material directly about Eleanor - as Weir found to her cost when she did an actual biography of Eleanor: Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England. But she is right in the middle of an absolute wealth of material about the politics of her day and I frankly don't think a proper job can be done on her without bringing that in, in rather more detail than Weir does here. If you want to read a really good shot at doing that in the form of historical novels, Sharon Penman has got that T-shirt: When Christ and His Saints Slept etc. (admittedly 3 long novels, and ou may feel you don't have the time!)
The second (and this may just be me being tedious) - far too much time on the sex by numbers stuff. That sort of thing will do in any sex'n'shopping novel, but there is so much more that could be done with this book! I felt that Weir's biog was basically an historical novel longing to get out - but I had rather thought that this would enable her to plump for (and explain in terms of character development) particular versions of what Eleanor might have done. Again, I quite see that the evidence (scads of children in very short order going on until Eleanor was on the brink of the menopause, and despite forced separations, and very very bitter break up) indicates that she and Henry had a passionate thing going - but we don't need the diagram at the expense of making the whole thing work and explaining the other big thing they had going - passionate political interests.
I also (despite having chuntered through a few of Weir's books that she should give up on the popular history and start writing historical novels) don't feel Weir is necessarily stylistically at home in the world of the novel. Whereas as a historian you can often sense her immersed in her facts, I don't find her writing here carries a sense of immersion or belief in the characters - and I think (like Tinkerbell) it is hard for characters to really live if their author doesn't believe in them as real people.
So - I guess if you are looking for an engaging picture of Eleanor's life written by someone who has done all the research, this is really good and you will probably like it and find it a good jumping off point for further reading. If you have read/adore Penman or are really quite well read on the subject of Eleanor of Aquitaine I suspect this will just annoy you (unless, like me, you enjoy a good chunter!)