The Book of Eleanor: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine

ISBN: 0609808095
ISBN 13: 9780609808092
By: Pamela Kaufman

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About this book

One of history’s greatest women, celebrated by her contemporaries, descendants, and biographers, comes to life in this mesmerizing novel by bestselling author Pamela Kaufman.In 1137, fifteen-year-old Eleanor became Duchess of Aquitaine, a wealthy and powerful province in the South of France. Rich and influential in her own right, her tumultuous marriages thrust Eleanor into the political and cultural spotlight, where she would remain for more than half a century. Still in her teens, Eleanor married Louis VII of France, a sickly religious fanatic so obsessed with adultery that he kept his beautiful wife under lock and key. A lifelong rebel, Eleanor would defy her husband and the Church and eventually strong-arm the Pope into annulling her unhappy marriage.Once free, she thought to marry Baron Rancon, her childhood love, but found herself forced into another political marriage with Henry II of England, a ruthless soldier known as “the red star of malice.” In Henry, Eleanor found a man whose iron will and political cunning matched her own, but the marriage was a bitter and brutal one, which escalated into open warfare when Eleanor backed their sons in an armed rebellion against Henry. Vowing revenge, he imprisoned her for seventeen years, hoping she would die in obscurity. But Eleanor would not go quietly. In prison, she wrote her memoir. This is her story.

Reader's Thoughts


I loved this book! Knowing that this was fiction I think helped a bit, I wasn't looking for 100% accuracy of history from the book. It was easy to read, and the story was compelling. I could not put this book down and I have re-read it several times.

Pablo Palet Araneda

Interesante y punto.


This was a great book to read after Pillars of the Earth. Since they both occur in roughly the same time periods there is a nice overlap. I can not imagine surviving in that period of time. Women were largely dismissed and wow, was the outlook bleak!

Gretchenmora Mora

The beginning really put me off. Didn't follow the opening too well but gave it a chance and really began to enjoy it after that. Very much embellished as to what *actually* might have happened. There were no footnotes, so I think a lot of it was conjecture, but made for a great love story. Nonetheless you get a great inside look as to all the crap she went through and places she visited at a very early time in "civilized" European history.

Melissa Winterman

Learn about Eleanor of Aquitaine, who managed to be Queen of both France and England, and ruled beside two powerful monarchs during her lifetime. She birthed Two daughters for the King of France and four sons for the King of England, but she was so much more than that, a powerful enigma in her own right, in a time where women had few rights.


Reading this, you realize how terrible it must have been for women in the Dark Ages. The book starts with the death of Eleanor's father, the Duke of Aquitaine. Aquitaine is unique in that it actually recognizes women as rightful heirs. Her childhood ends swiftly as they hurry to marry her so she won't be raped for her title and inheritance but she never forgets her first love . She withstands a miserable first marriage to the King of France, and an even more miserable marriage to Henry II of England when he grows tired of her. Through all of this, you realize the intelligence of this woman and sympathize she could do nothing to refute or prevent the abuse and expoitation she suffers from her husbands and by the Church other than being clever. Kauffman does a great job in delineating Eleanor as a cunning, intelligent woman who accepts her role but uses her charms to achieve what she wants.


Before I read this book I did not know anything abourt Eleanor or Aquitaine. As her personal drama unfolds the reader realizes that strong, and daring women like Eleanor provide meaninful lessons long after they are gone.


I recently started caretaking at a house with a huge library. This book was among the rest and I picked it up out of an interest in Eleanor, and strong women in general. The book was disappointing, and historically inaccurate in ways that made Eleanor a much weaker and less inspiring character than she was in real life. Although there were many instances, the major standout was the portrayal in the book of Eleanor's marriage to Henry II of England after the annulment of her marriage to Louis of France. In the book, she is depicted as annulling the marriage in order to run off with a guy she's in love with, with Henry subsequently kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage. In reality, she probably instigated the marriage to Henry, an astute political move for both parties. There are a lot of other instances of Eleanor's motivations being portrayed as a desire for domestic happiness rather than the workings of the powerful political mind of a woman who was ruler of her own Dukedom as well as Queen of France and England. I don't know why women writers continue to undermine strong female historical characters by attributing all of those characters' actions to romance, but it's really exasperating.


Just arrived from UK through BM.This book covers the historical period from 1137 to 1173. According to author's notes, Richard of Rancon was actually Geoffrey of Rancon, baron of Taillebour and his personal story is fiction.


I have very mixed feelings about this book. There were parts I absolutely loved, and parts where I cringed at the corniness of the writing. It definitely felt like I was reading a second rate Philippa Gregory, I loved learning about Eleanor and a period of royal history I didn't know much about, but Kaufman's style is not as fluid as I would've liked. I was also disappointed to read at the end how much the historical details were twisted to suit the story, obviously I expect historical fiction to be fiction but the distortion of the truth went a little too far. Overall it was an enjoyable read, but not brilliant.


Really enjoyed this book. Had a hard time putting it down. I've been fascinated with the Plantagenet family since studying "The Lion in Winter" in high school. This was a satisfying read about their many facets and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.


As someone who loved historical fiction this book was ok. Not the best not the worst. While the real people this is based in are fascinating, I found it sometimes difficult to connect with the majority of the main characters. It was an interesting read and like a previous reviewer I agree that some parts of the book were very exciting and others I felt like I had to get through it. Not bad but there are other more interesting historical fiction books out there.


Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the most interesting figures in history. First duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, then queen of France, then queen of England, she held a great deal of power.This book starts with her imprisonment by her second husband, Henry II of England, in Wales. She asks for parchment to write her story, as she is certain that she will die soon.The book continues in flashback, starting shortly before her investiture with the honors of Aquitaine at age 15. We see a youthful romance, a great deal of strife -- and then an arranged, unwanted and doomed marriage to the hyper-religious Louis of France. The latter had felt a strong vocation to the priesthood and came to the throne most reluctantly upon the death of both father and brother.In any event, it is not Eleanor who is sought by Louis, nor subsequently by Henry: always it is the rich and powerful Duchy of Aquitaine, which Eleanor holds. Forced into both marriages by common convention, she struggles to keep her people safe, even going on Crusade, organizing a rebellion against Henry and more.These are all historical facts that are woven into a rich tale people with entertaining characters. A delightful read all around.


Ya había leído la historia de esta reina magnífica en la serie de Jean Plaidy "Los reyes Plantagenet", y puedo decir que lo que sucedió aquí fue muy curioso: acabé por detestar a un escritor ¡leyendo a otro! ¡Ésta sí es una novela histórica! La señora Plaidy se ha hecho millonaria vendiendo sus series históricas, pero después de leer libros como el de Kaufman da incluso coraje que Plaidy se considere "escritora". Kaufman logra contarnos una historia que atrapa desde la primera página, un relato en el que no se sabe dónde acaba lo estrictamente histórico y dónde comienza la ficción (el romance de Leonor con Rancon, por ejemplo), y aunque al final la autora aclara qué es estrictamente inventado, la historia es una verdadera delicia. Personajes muy bien dibujados, consistentes, trágicos algunos, románticos todos, y la prosa sencilla, sin florituras innecesarias pero muy, muy disfrutable. Por supuesto, sin ningún rigor histórico, pero completamente recomendable.


I read this book a couple years ago with my book club. I thought it was an enjoyable read, but I didn't know how much if any was historically accurate. I didn't read it for historical accuracy though. I did enjoy learning about how women were treated back then.

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