The Summer Queen
By Elizabeth Chadwick, and Katie Scarfe
The epic first novel in a magnificent trilogy unveiling the fascinating and misunderstood young queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth ChadwickTweet
This book is the first part of a trilogy and gives a very detailed account of the early part of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life, up until her departure for England. I had very little knowledge of this period in history or of the life and times of Eleanor of Aquitaine and this book certainly provided a great deal of information about both of these. Whilst I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of the storytelling, I have no doubt that the subject was very well researched. As with all historical fiction it is, of course, difficult to know which parts are historical fact and which are creative embellishments in order to provide a good read.
And, on the whole, it was a good read. The story itself was written in such a way that the author kept my attention most of the time, but I can’t say that I was ever entirely riveted. There was so much detail that the end result was a book that was longer than it needed to have been. There were certainly times when I found it a little dull and thought the pace was just too slow. It is also quite repetitive, with bedroom scenes aplenty and rather too many tedious details of visits to holy sites and churches. Whilst this was undoubtedly what life was like in those days, it does not necessarily make for interesting reading. However I do understand that the author wanted to include as much information she had about the movements of the people concerned in order to maximise the authenticity of the story.
Eleanor herself didn’t really come alive for me – her character, especially in the early days, didn’t seem entirely consistent. For example, was her religious fervor real or was it pursued for the sake of appearances? Whilst I appreciate that this was a way of life back then in a way in which it is clearly not nowadays in Western Europe (where the story is set), there still seemed to be discrepancies in her attitude to it which made it unclear whether she was just going through the motions or was taking real comfort from her religious beliefs. This may have been because the whole culture and lifestyle was so different from that which I am used to that I just couldn’t relate to the way people thought and behaved. Alternatively, as the character seemed less developed in the first half of the book it may have been done intentionally to illustrate the mood swings of being a teenager. Whatever the reasons, I felt that Eleanor’s character was missing a vital “something”, which made it hard for me to really care.
I am glad I have read this book and I quite enjoyed it on the whole, even to the point where I may well read the next two volumes so that I can find out “what happened next”. However, historical fiction is not one of my favourite genres and this definitely comes into that category. If you enjoy historical fiction generally or you have a particular interest in Eleanor of Aquitaine then I suspect you will appreciate this book much more than I did.