Eleanor of Aquitaine: The Journey East

Written by Mark Richard Beaulieu
Review by Steve Donoghue

Mark Richard Beaulieu’s ongoing series of historical novels about that much-storied historical figure, Eleanor of Aquitaine, continues in The Journey East.   This instalment spotlights her marriage to King Louis VII of France, her ongoing tangles with the French court, and, in the book’s dramatic set-piece, Louis’ decision to take her with him as he goes 3000 miles to the Holy Land in order to liberate Jerusalem from the Saracens in the Second Crusade.

Devoting 500 pages to a period of Eleanor’s life that most of her other biographers leave comfortably in the past is something of a gamble; most readers will be expecting the Eleanor they know best, the wife of Henry II of England, the rival of Fair Rosamund, the mother of kings. What Beaulieu gives us instead is the making of that legend out of one intelligent, passionate, beautiful young woman (as she encounters an expertly well-conceived cast of secondary characters). This series is taking its time reaching that most famous period in its subject’s life, and it’s doing so with such skill that readers will only want more.