The Queen's Daughter
Henry Holt, 2010
This one has been tempting me for several months, but I've finally been able to curl up and read it. (The (admittedly happy) problem of having To Read 'stacks' instead of merely a 'list'). I am happy to report it was definitely worth the wait. Going in to the reading, I confess, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd discover. I'd read the book jacket and several reviews, so on some level I knew what I was going to be reading: the story of the daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Figures I am incredibly familiar with thanks to both my History and Literature degrees. And I got that - but also so much more.
The Queen's Daughter focuses on, of course, the Queen's daughter - Joan - and the unusual, dramatic, and tumultuous life she led. Joan's family was torn apart by inner-family warring and an unquenchable thirst for power. Joan, wanting only to love and have her family together in peace, is in effect a victim riding the tides of turmoil rocking the country. Because she is a princess, Joan is also a useful pawn - and is married off to the last Norman King of Sicily. There, Joan tries to model her Queenship after her mother's example and slowly learns that Eleanor's queenly example is not universal. Actually, throughout the novel, Joan is continually coming to terms with the fact that Eleanor's model example is one that only works (or doesn't work, depending on your perspective) for her. Joan is not Eleanor, and her life is not happy and contented and rewarding until Joan learns to live for Joan instead of her mother.
Aside from learning about Joan - a figure I was previously unaware of, and who I could definitely relate to - one thing I really enjoyed about reading The Queen's Daughter was getting a different look at some of the figures I was familiar with prior to reading. I got a sense of Henry II as a father instead of merely a King desperate to keep and/or gain power and land. The most drastic 'change' in perspective for me was Richard - oh, Richard the Lionhearted! I have loved him from Ivanhoe and Robin Hood, always seeing him portrayed as the wronged King and a dashing, fearless knight. And yet, looking at the decisions and methods he employed, I saw a different (probably truer) version of Richard. He wasn't the peerless knight any longer.
I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and will be searching out more reads dealing with the time and host of characters. I might even, gasp!, foray into nonfiction. Maybe I'm growing up, but I want to explore this 'new dimension' of the figures I have previously known.
Book provided by my personal library.