Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Jean Plaidy and Courts of Love

My last day back in Seattle, I allowed myself a trip to the nearest Barnes and Noble. It was a shorter trip, only ten days, and full of family and family gatherings, centered around my father’s recent death. The days sped by, each full and exhausting.

I had already packed most of my bags. I do this so I know how much, if any, room I have. That way, I won’t buy too many books. I know myself. I know my vices. There is a part of me that says “how can there be too many books? How can there be too much of such a good thing?”

And then I am stuck trying to shovel books into an already overpacked suitcase, stuffing more into my stuffed backpack, shoving, re-arranging, tossing out old underwear to make way for yet another book.

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I only bought a few books, one of which was Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy. If you follow this link, you will find many reviews of this book that disagree with my opinion, and gave this book almost five full stars.

I have always held Eleanor of Aquitaine in great awe. Born in the Languedoc region of France, she was raised in a court full of literature and poetry, visitors from distant places bringing news. She was educated, and exposed to rule. She was expected to inheirit the rich province of Aquitaine until a younger brother was born, but, as was not uncommon in the times, he succumbed to a childhood illness, and she once again became the inheiritor of a fabulously wealthy and desirable province, the Aquitaine.

And if being the inheiritor of Aquitaine wasn’t enough, she was also thin, and elegantly beautiful, and educated, and she had spirit. She never felt herself limited by being a woman.

She first married Louis, King of France, who was nowhere near her match. She insisted on accompanying Louis on his crusade to free Jerusalem (failed) and upon her return to France met Henry, the heir to the English throne, secured a divorce from Louis of France based on the fact that they were distantly related, and then quickly married Henry, who was even less distantly related. She did as she wished.

Henry was several years younger than Eleanor, and they were both full of fire, and ambition. They had force, and strategic vision; as a couple, they were unbeatable. Eleanor gave birth almost yearly, mostly sons, and was happy until she discovered her husband’s multiple infidelities. His inability to be a faithful husband created a bitterness in her heart, a wall between the two of them. From time to time, Henry had Eleanor imprisoned to keep her out of his way. He believed she had turned his sons against him. But many times, he would need her, and call her out of her captivity to help him. It’s a bitch, being married to a king.

Where am I going with this review, you might ask?

I finished the book, and all I can wonder is how Jean Plaidy took such a fiery woman, a sensual and vibrant woman, and made her so wooden? It must be some problem in me, as the other reviewers give the book a much higher rating than I would, and I wonder if they are confusing their awe with the subject (Eleanor) with the quality of the book?

Or maybe I have become so used to Phillipa Gregory’s treatment that I am spoiled for Jean Plaidy? When you read The Queen’s Fool, The Other Bolyn Girl and The Constant Princess you are there, you are in their world, feeling their thoughts. The dialogue is rich and lively, you are surrounded by sensory clues, smells, feels, tastes – the world is richly created, and when you finish the book, you feel like you have travelled in time, as if you were really there.

Not so with Courts of Love.

I would rate this book far lower, because I DO admire Eleanor of Aquitaine, and I think she deserves an equally lively, richly sensual treatment. I want to know her world, I want to peek inside her mind and experience a little of what she experienced. I want Philippa Gregory to write about Eleanor of Aquitaine! Jean Plaidy, in my opinion, took an extraordinary woman, and make her less vibrant, and just a little drab. A grave injustice, in my book!

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February 15, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Family Issues, Fiction, France, Middle East, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Travel, Uncategorized

5 Comments »

  1. Ahhhh Jean Plaidy. When I was little, I used to love reading her books (she also wrote under the name Philippa Carr).

    For some reason her books were always shelved in the “biography” section of our library – though I very much doubt that they would meet the standards of scholarly rigor.

    When I was older – mid or late teens – I re-read some of the books I had loved, including The Courts of Love. They _were_ wooden, and worse – they were all so much the same. Eleanor, Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots – Plaidy’s vision of medieval and early modern womanhood had little nuance or room for each individual woman’s personal growth from childhood to old age.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | February 15, 2007 | Reply

  2. i love books, but lately ive had trouble finding a book that captures me, you know the kind you cant put down till u reach the very last page

    any recommendations?

    Comment by eshda3wa | February 15, 2007 | Reply

  3. Oh Little Diamond, I am so glad you agree!

    Eshda3wa – Do you read any Barbara Kinsolver? One of my all time favorites is The Poisonwood Bible; but she has written many good books. I love Philippa Gregory’s books, and often one leads to another, so it isn’t so bad when you finish one. For airplanes, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Keller . . . and if you like reading several books by the same author – Donna Leon, who writes about Commisario Guido Brunetti, a police investigator in Venice, but the books are about both world crime issues and living conditions in Venice and Italy.

    Lord have mercy, you got me started! I could talk books forever!

    I look for book club books – they usually have questions in the back – and I prefer books with an international theme. I, too, am always looking for good recommendations, so share!

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 15, 2007 | Reply

  4. Oh how I remember Jean Plaidy from my adolescent reading – with all her faults, she bred in me a love of narrative/biographical history. ~I agree with you about Barbara Kingsolver and loved The Poisonwood Bible and also Phillipa Gregory and Donna Leon who I only discovered last year and have now passed to my mother. I love Carl Hiaasen and my brothers and I pass his books on to each other. One of the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read was a Jay McInerny ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ and I’ll read anything by Douglas Coupland who is so funny. I work for an IT company and his book ‘Microserfs’ was so hysterically funny. Sorry, I coulld run on and on about books and haven’t even started on all the foreign (Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian etc) authors I love to read for a different world view.

    Comment by mrschaieb | February 18, 2007 | Reply

  5. Oh, MrsChaieb, good input! Thanks you, some of the authors I haven’t heard of!

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 18, 2007 | Reply


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