The Winter Crown
It is the winter of 1154 and Eleanor, Queen of England, is biding her time. While her husband King Henry II battles for land across the channel, Eleanor fulfils her duty as acting ruler and bearer of royal children. But she wants to be more than this – if only Henry would let her.
Instead, Henry belittles and excludes her, falling for a young mistress and leaving Eleanor side-lined and angry. And as her sons become young men, frustrated at Henry’s hoarding of power, Eleanor is forced into a rebellion of devastating consequences. She knows how much Henry needs her, but does Henry know himself?
Overflowing with scandal, politics, sex, triumphs and tragedies, The Winter Crown is the much-awaited new novel in this trilogy and a rich, compelling story in its own right.
Every now and then I am lucky enough to come across a true gem in my reading pile that makes me feel as if, until that moment where I turn to the next page and realize I’m immersed in something really special, I have been plagued by mediocre stories and sub-par reading material. The Winter Crown is one of the books that did that for me.
How do you “review” a book that you loved and basically inhaled? You don’t. You talk about it instead. I’m sitting here racking my brain, trying to come up with anything negative to say, and there’s nothing. My brain becomes a blank. Everything about this book was enjoyable and well worth the $15 I spent on it.
For those of you who don’t know the history: Eleanor of Aquitaine was first married to Louis VII of France at a very young age; she bore him two daughters, but no sons. Eventually their marriage was annulled based on the fact that they were deemed to be too closely related (everyone married their cousins back then!) and Henry II of England asked for her hand in marriage, which would secure England Aquitaine through marriage only–one of Eleanor’s many conditions to her marriage to Henry was that she would maintain sole rule of Aquitaine. She also had to give up all communication of her two daughters and basically act like they never existed at all. And here this novel begins.
It’s important for you–my audience–to know that I didn’t read the prequel to this novel, nor did I need to. As the Goodreads description says, this novel is a perfectly good story in its own right, separate from its trilogy, but now that I’ve read it I do want to go back and read the first one, and then eventually get my hands on the third. In addition to reading everything else by Elizabeth Chadwick, of course! Oh, her writing is so good. This single novel covers twenty years of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life but it never feels rushed. At first, when you’re not even halfway through the book and Eleanor has birthed five children, it might feel a bit fast, but upon reflection I feel that Chadwick gave each detail the appropriate amount of time to tell the story interestingly and successfully. Condensing the twenty or so years that Eleanor was married to Henry II into one novel in fact serves to strengthen the image of Eleanor as one of the strongest queens in English history, and a role model for myself. She accomplished so much during her time as queen! When I look at the size of the novel and think about all that it contains, I’m astounded that Chadwick was able to fit so much history, personality, and regality onto such few pages. Truly, truly remarkable–and here I refer to both Eleanor and the author.
One of the aspects of Chadwick’s writing that I found most interesting was that she actually never delves too far into any character’s headspace–meaning we don’t hear much of Eleanor’s day-to-day thoughts–but simultaneously manages to write vivid, complex, and surprising characters. I’d always thought that it was necessary to constantly be deep inside a character’s head to truly get to know them but Chadwick has taught me that isn’t the case. It’s very hard to describe the way in which Chadwick writes the characters and their descriptions…without quoting directly entire pages from the novel as an example. But let me say that it was something both odd, because I wasn’t used to that form of character building, but also insanely interesting. There was a reason I kept reading, everybody!
I can’t believe I’m finished reading it already. I really enjoyed my time with this book. Something I would also enjoy would be if the author went back and wrote more books that took particular moments in history from within this novel and wrote them in lengthier detail. Not necessarily from Eleanor’s perspective because that might feel redundant, but perhaps from Eleanor’s best friend Isabel’s perspective, or even Henry’s. Luckily Chadwick has dozens of novels for me to dive into when I need to quench my thirst for historical fiction!
Since finishing The Book Thief last winter, I’ve struggled to find a book that gave me the same feeling of wholeness. The other morning I reflected on that feeling and thought back to the books that marked a special place in my heart. I want to share that list with you, and hopefully these titles can give you the same happiness I had when I read them!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book struck such a chord with me that I have never found the words to review it. For me, it’s perfect. I can’t believe there was once a time where I picked it up in the bookstore, read the first page and thought, “Nah, this isn’t for me.” I suppose certain books find me at the right time in my life, and this is one of them.
Read it in the winter. Especially if you live somewhere where it gets cold and grey–this story really encapsulates that atmosphere. A sad story, yes, but one full of hope and promise that I couldn’t help walking away from it feeling glad and inspired.
The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
This book was an important part of growing up and branching out in terms of my reading selections. It’s a very dark story, and one that I wouldn’t introduce to someone at too young an age (I was 13 when I read it), but it taught me important lessons about sex, consent, mental illness, and LGBT+ relationships. I was engrossed with this book when I read it, despite how disturbing it could be, and I will always remember being sucked into these pages like falling through the door to Narnia.
Bamboozled by David Legge
It was while my grandparents read us Bamboozled that I fell in love with storytelling and the wild adventures that fiction can take us on. If you’ve never read it, or have kids of your own, I highly recommend adding it to your collection.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The first classic I ever read, in the eighth grade I didn’t understand a lot of what was being said in this story about race but I identified with Scout and Jem’s adventures, their fear of their neighbour Boo Radley, and the admiration they had for their father. I was enraptured by the legal issues woven throughout the story despite not quite understanding them and remember the duration of reading as yet another time when I was oblivious to the world around me and instead existed in a haze of To Kill a Mockingbird‘s words.
A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith
This book was, by far, one of the biggest literary undertakings I’ve ever faced. There are no chapters–instead the reader faces straight prose for 700 pages. But that prose! I was in love with this book in the way you fall in love and get lost in a painting or sunset. In changed my opinion on King Richard III and inspired me to get a B.A. in history.
I have since tried to read more by this author, but all of her prose is the same lengthy endeavour and I haven’t had the time necessary to commit to her stories properly. If you do, though, I’m telling you that it is so worth it!
What books changed your life? Tell me in the comments below! 🙂
So You Think You’re a Millennial?
Discover how the life of the Millennial is a non-stop mix of selfies and startups, Kardashians and kale, kombucha and crowdfunding, anxiety and activism, experiences and entitlement.
Do you feel as nervous about your life prospects as you are about securing the last available table at your favorite brunch spot? Are you equally outraged by the myriad injustices in the world as you are by changes to Instagram meaning your selfies won’t be seen by your followers? If the answer is yes, then chances are you are a Millennial. So what exactly is that? If you were born between the early 1980s and the turn of the century (give or take), then it’s you. This hilarious guide, which features profiles and observations of this most self-interested of generations, plus a series of fun quizzes, will reveal exactly what it is that makes a Millennial tick, from freaking out about rent prices to checking out the latest BuzzFeed listicle.
This little book was such a joy to read! Honestly, I don’t know how it hasn’t been all over social media or Buzzfeed given its pure, unadulterated and hilarious attack on the millennial generation. Full disclosure, I am part of that generation, and reading this book was so much fun. The profiles in this book are of course exaggerated, but I was able to see little bits of myself in every profile, and was even able to peg my friends (but don’t tell them that!)
So what are some of the things you’ll find in this book? Apart from the wonderful illustrations, you’ve got such profiles as The Wellness Addict, The Perpetual Intern (that was me for a loooooong time), The Basic, The Mean Geek (my boyfriend), The Brunch Obsessive (me now), The Armchair Activist, The Fitspo Bore, The Crafter, The Makeup Obsessive, and so many more! I loved them all.
It’s clear Jo is a people-watcher, and also not a millennial. Otherwise these pages would also be dotted with her tears.
Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own and in no way reflect those of my professional associations and affiliations.