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


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 was impressed by the scope of Kaufman’s research for this book. It was really interesting to learn about Eleanor. I had heard of her but didn't know much about her. Engaging book that was very well researched. It got a little slow in parts but that was Eleanor's life.


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!


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.

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.

Alex Telander

I don’t think I demand too much when I read a book, but as an avid reader of historical fiction, my one request is that this fictitious history be at least as accurate as the current evidence allows. Therefore it dumbfounds me to discover that The Book of Eleanor is currently climbing the bestseller lists in Los Angeles. Whilst the book is set in the right century (the twelfth) and the main character soon starts relaying to the reader about the Black Plague that has been taking many lives throughout England, there is one glaring inaccuracy here: the Black Plague did not take place for another two hundred years, in 1347.While plague was quite a common occurrence throughout the Middle Ages, and there was what is known as the Justinian Plague during the sixth to eighth centuries where half the population of Europe was wiped out, the Black Death would nevertheless take place until the fourteenth century. As a matter of fact, it was never actually referred to as the Black Death by its contemporaries, but this was a name for the bubonic plague later on. This crucial failing at history fact sets the tone for the rest of the novel; so if you can get by with being lied to about history, you might just enjoy the book.Originally published in July/August 2002.For over 500 book reviews, and over 40 exclusive author interviews (both audio and written), visit BookBanter.

Althea Ann

Straight historical fiction, except for a few rather insignificant appearances by the ghost of the title character's grandfather....However, in this case, the emphasis is on 'fiction,' not 'historical,' even though the author is an academician.Eleanor of Aquitaine was a strong, scheming, politically brilliant woman of the Middle Ages, but the author makes her character's motivation behind everything she does related to an abiding childhood love. Unfortunately, this love affair is total fiction - admittedly a product of the author's imagination. This makes for a more tied-together, emotionally fulfilling plot for a novel - but it means that the actual historical motivations behind the events of Eleanor's life - a marriage to the King of France, a successful appeal to the Pope to annul that marriage, a marriage (at her request, unlike the events in the book [a kidnapping and rape]) to the King of England, and then a rebellion, involving their sons, against that king - the possible ACTUAL scenarios and motivations are not explored, because of this fictional love affair.I found this a little disappointing, but then again, historical fiction is probably never accurate, even when it strives to be, so it's really best to take it all as fantasy!

Sol Grancharoff

Medio cursi y con muchas inexactitudes históricas, pero muy lindo y llevadero...


I love historical fiction, so I'm a little biased, but I loved Pamela Kaufmann's treatment of Eleanor's story. Yes, a lot of historical liberties were taken, but she does it seamlessly and tastefully - one of my favorite books.


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.


Okay...I'd probably give this one 3 1/2 stars if I could. I loved learning about the position of women in those times. It was interesting to see that even very intelligent, educated, and ambitious women were very much at the mercy of men. They were pretty much traded around like cattle. I was also intrigued by the entire royal class system. The arranged marriages even in infancy to ensure their royal positions fascinated me. Enough said, the history was interesting, but I was bothered that one of the main storylines, her affair with Rancon was complete fiction. The lyrics to many of the poems and songs were extremely crude (just kind of avoided them). Maybe they were like that in the time, but the language is totally inappropriate today. I also found the many different people and their positions got quite confusing at times. I will definitely read more about Eleanor of Aquitaine, but I don't know that I will read more by this author.


I really enjoyed this picture of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Forced into 2 very different marriages, she held out hope for the love she had found with Rancon. Louis' ideas about marriage made me laugh, while Henry's seemed very typical of the time period. Eleanor's desire to rule her own land, love the man of her choosing, and raise her children to be kings and queens, made her seem a very progressive woman. Yet in today's world, she seems common. Interesting to think about it that way...


I'm sorry I wasted my money on this book. While its understandable for an author to twist history a bit to fit the story they want to tell, this one twisted things so far out of shape that Eleanor's life is hardly recognizable.

Elizabeth Jones

A great historical Fiction about Eleanor of Aquitaine during the eleven hundreds. Pamela kaufman did a great job of weaving a story of intrigue, danger all around a woman of strength and courage.


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.

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