Author: Alison Weir, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction. 12th century England-France.
Other Details: Hardback. 487 pages.
Although I've read a few of Alison Weir's historical biographies, this is my first encounter with one of her novels. Its focus is upon Eleanor of Aquitaine during the period 1151-1189, the years covering her passionate, turbulent relationship with Henry II of England. There is an epilogue set in 1204 as she lays on her death bed at the age of 82.
According to Alison Weir's notes at the end of the novel, this was a project that she first conceived when she was researching Eleanor's life for her 1999 historical biography, Eleanor of Aquitaine: a Life. As she had been drawn into a love of history through historical novels, she wished to use the novel as a way to fill in the gaps though taking pains to make it as authentic as possible "given a little dramatic license and the novelists informed imagination". Weir is clearly passionate about adhering to a high standard of authenticity and I felt that showed throughout the novel along with the affection and respect she obviously feels for Eleanor.
I consider Weir foremost a writer of historical biographies rather than a novelist, so she hasn't quite the skill of other authors in terms of establishing a strong narrative flow and characterisation, especially of supporting characters. This didn't diminish my pleasure in the novel or my appreciation for how Weir had approached her subject. There were parts which seemed very reminiscent of The Lion in Winter in tone and so no real surprise when Weir mentioned that play/film in her notes.
The only thing the book is really lacking is suggestions for further reading. Still, I would expect that most of Weir's readers would be aware of her earlier biography, which has ample sources. I have that biography on my 'to be read' list and did dip into it a few times while reading this.