Eleanor the Queen, Norah Lofts
2010 is the summer of Eleanor of Aquitaine with many books being published about this illustrious medieval queen. This novel is not new but a reissue of one published in the 1950s by this wonderful historical fiction author. Lofts' novels are always well researched and this is no exception, even though it is rather short.
Lofts begins her novel with Eleanor almost on the eve of her marriage to the French King in 1137 and follows her life up to the point where she is returning to England to keep a handle on things for her son Richard (who is leaving for his crusade) in 1190. The reader will catch glimpses of her marriage to King Louis, their disastrous crusade, and her tumultuous marriage to Henry II. I found this book a very easy and quick read - in fact, too quick. While Lofts' information is certainly good, in a book of this small size many events in Eleanor's life are glazed over. As eventful as Eleanor's life was, Lofts seems to focus more on the more mundane, everyday aspects of her life, which isn't a bad thing but as all the truly important events are mentioned only briefly the novel does seem to drag a bit and could be construed as "boring." This novel did seem to spend more time on Eleanor's years as Henry's captive which was rather interesting to read about. I do have my doubts about a few of the events that happened to her while she was a captive but I did enjoy getting more of a look at those years. There really was nothing "new" about Lofts' Eleanor and she portrays her in quite a favorable light. All the other major players in history (Henry, Richard, John, etc.) are there but they are just not focused on so the reader is not going to get much about their lives and feelings.
As far as historical fiction goes, this novel is about average. It is not an in depth or difficult read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is just starting out in their discovery of Eleanor; you will get the basics of her life in a very easy to read format. Those who are well versed in Eleanor's life might find it lacking. I would still recommend Sharon Kay Penman's wonderful trilogy on Eleanor and Henry as the best to read on this turbulent and impassioned couple and family.