Captive Queen

Alison Weir, Ballantine, $26 (512p) ISBN 978-0-345-51187-4
Weir (Innocent Traitor) captures the perspective of the subject of her bestselling biography, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the medieval duchess who wielded power across Europe at a time when women were required to cede all possessions to their husbands. Both of Eleanor's husbands were kings—she divorced Louis VII of France to marry the soon-to-be Henry II—and Weir offers a vivid history of Eleanor's second marriage, highlighting Henry's fiery temper, unflagging energy, and obsession with loyalty. Weir's portrait of Eleanor reveals a mother devoted to her children, even as they grow up to rebel; a queen dedicated to her native land, even when governed by husband or son; and a woman yearning for love. Part of a wave of fiction re-interpreting famous female figures, Weir gives a credible account of an encounter between Eleanor and the girl reputed to have replaced her in Henry's affections, and a convincing explanation of how Henry and Thomas Becket became mortal enemies. Although her style is more studied and sedate than, say, Philippa Gregory's, Weir doesn't skimp on the sex-obsessed court, and her weaving of personal and political narratives with minor details, social trends, and history-defining events creates a surprisingly modern-feeling romance. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/28/2010
Release date: 07/01/2010
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