The Captive Queen by Alison Weir

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The Captive Queen by Alison Weir

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Novel about one of history's most interesting women by one of Bookbag's favourite non-fiction authors. Slightly disappointing - Bookbag was expecting something a trifle more literary and without the bad sex scenes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Arrow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0099534584

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It's 1152 and we meet Eleanor of Aquitaine as the beautiful, vigorous, wilful twenty-nine-year-old Queen of France. She is unhappy in her marriage and before a chapter or two are out, she's riding across the French countryside, annulment in hand and leaving her two daughters behind, on her way to a new husband and a partnership that will become one of the most famous in history.

Together, Eleanor and Henry II oversaw a huge empire that stretched from southern France to northern England. They had nine children, two of whom became King of England. Eleanor herself was most unlike other noblewomen of her day and the marriage to Henry was tumultuous, leading to affairs, rebellion and imprisonment. The Captive Queen tells Eleanor's story from the day she met Henry. If ever there was a great woman to write an historical novel about, Eleanor of Aquitaine is she.


... I hate to say it, but I was disappointed in this book. Alison Weir is one of my favourite non-fiction authors and I love the way she brings historical figures to life. Her biographies are perfect popular history: accessible, vivid and accurate. And I enjoy a bit of good quality historical fiction now and then, so I had high expectations for this one. But it takes a while to warm to the characters, the prose is stilted at times and the first half of the book is marred by some pretty rotten sex scenes. I wasn't expecting Wolf Hall necessarily, but I wasn't expecting a twelfth century bonkbuster either.

Happily, the sex eases off in the latter half of the book and I did feel I got to know the characters as the pages went on. I turned the final page thinking that, on balance, I had enjoyed it and would have enjoyed it more had I not been expecting something different.

Fans of racy historical fiction will enjoy The Captive Queen, but I'm less sure fans of Alison's superlative biographies will. Sorry.

My thanks to the good people at Arrow for sending the book.

Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien is another novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine, but I'd really recommend people to look at Weir's excellent biographies. Her Katherine Swynford is a favourite of mine.

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