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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Captive Queen

Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine


Review of Captive Queen by Alison Weir


Overview from www.bn.com: Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Eleanor of Aquitaine has spent the past dozen frustrating years as wife to the pious King Louis VII of France. But when Henry of Anjou, the young and dynamic future king of England, arrives at the French court, he and the seductive Eleanor experience a mutual passion powerful enough to ignite the world. Indeed, after the annulment of Eleanor’s marriage to Louis and her remarriage to Henry, the union of this royal couple creates a vast empire that stretches from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees—and marks the beginning of the celebrated Plantagenet dynasty. But Henry and Eleanor’s marriage, charged with physical heat, begins a fiery downward spiral marred by power struggles and bitter betrayals. Amid the rivalries and infidelities, the couple’s rebellious sons grow impatient for power, and the scene is set for a vicious and tragic conflict that will threaten to engulf them all.


My Review:

Wow, another long book. I sure hope the next book isn’t this long. I have however, once again, returned to fiction. This one about Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is called Captive Queen, written by Alison Weir who I believe is a famous historian over there on the other side of the pond. The novel covers a large period of Eleanor’s life though not all of it.


First I have to admit that I was tempted to stop reading this one after the first few chapters. If it had not been for Weir’s reputation, I most certainly would have. These chapters are quite bawdy and contain many f bombs, too many in my opinion. I have to say though that I am glad I didn’t give up on it because the tale is an interesting one and those elements do give the reader an idea of the sorts of persons both Eleanor and Henry were.


Upon finishing the book, I have to admit what amazed me most was just how long Eleanor lived. She was in her eighties on her death which must have been very unusual for the time period. And yet she seemed to have lived a very full life even if it was not entirely good. She made the best of her situation most of the time and didn’t seem to hesitate when it came to admitting her own faults.


In the novel, we start with the annulment of her first marriage to one of the Louis, king of France. It seems Eleanor is unhappy with this arrangement since her husband rarely visits her bed and would make a better monk than priest.


As she embarks on her next marriage to Henry, all seems well at first. They have a huge empire that stretches all the way to England when Henry inherits the crown from King Steven. But differences of opinion later separate them as Eleonor takes her sons’ part in the disagreement which will eventually land her in prison.


The story is probably worth checking out, particularly if you are interested in the lives of either Eleonor or Henry but keep in mind that is not entirely a happy one. Let me know what you think.


Side note: I will be going on vacation for a while so there will not be any new posts to this blog for a few weeks. Thank you for your understanding.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Unbroken

Unbroken: A World War II St...

Review of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


Overview from www.goodreads.com: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.


The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.


My Review:



Much like Louis (or Louie) Zamperini, the world around him was always on the move. As a young child of Italian immigrants, Louie was always in trouble. He liked to steal things and cause a general havoc wherever he went. He seemed destined for a mental hospital or worse but then his brother Pete had a great idea. Louie would become a runner. Pete trained him until he became one the best there were and for a while it seemed as though his troubles might be over but they were only just beginning.


Unbroken tells us the story of the first part, which I just summarized as well as what happened next. We have all heard the troubled kid makes good story before and usually when that kid turns himself around, the story ends.
But of course life goes on and so must Louie. He continues running at school, winning meet after meet. Then just when all seems lost he gets himself a spot on the 1936 Olympics, the same one where Jesse Owens won four gold medals.


After that one moment in the sun, war breaks out and Louie’s dreams are cut short when he goes off to the Pacific to fight. To say that he endured terrible things there would be a gross understatement. He survived a plane crash, being lost at sea on a raft for forty-seven days, and then the terrible horrors of a Japanese prison camp.
The same courage and stubbornness that got him in trouble with the law when he was young, that kept him going when he was floating out on a raft in the Pacific, gave him the courage to survive and defy the brutality of his Japanese soldiers. He just wouldn’t let go, give in or give up.


His incredible true story kept me on the edge of my seat. It also kept me wondering: How much more can this guy take?  When my father and I were discussing this book he told me that he too was thinking, “enough already.” What more can he go through?


This book has been made into a movie directed by Angelina Jolie though I have no idea when it will be released. I only hope that she does it justice. In the meantime, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I guarantee it will make your problems seem small in comparison and encourage you to go forward. It did for me anyway.