Was Eleanor of Aquitaine born great? Did she achieve greatness, or was it thrust upon her? The toughest of medieval women relates her struggle to assert influence and real power through six decades in a male-dominated world.
“A Deeper View, May 27, 2008: Robert Fripp’s novel/faux memoir has much more multi-layered depth than any of the dozen or more Eleanor books I’ve read. The characters are richer, the stories and themes have many more angles, and the Eleanor who saw more and aimed higher than the powerful people she played with, really comes through at age 80. It’s not the most ‘pop’ or easy of the books, but it’s the richest in its vision, much of it coming from Fripp’s journalistic rigour as a former CBC series producer for ‘The Fifth Estate’. He sees far, in many directions, as did Eleanor.”
~ Richard P. Geer, Toronto, ON
“I don’t often do book reviews, but this one is really, really good. “Power of a Woman” brings us an “autobiography” of Eleanor of Aquitaine that is accessible and entertaining! Eleanor was Medieval Europe’s most interesting woman. In an age when women were considered a necessary evil, and expected to bear sons and be quiet, she defied tradition.
“She married two of the most powerful men in Europe, and birthed several more. She went on Crusade. She ruled vast territories. She created a definition of love that survives to this day. Telling her story in Eleanor’s voice, Robert Fripp shows us Medieval Europe through her eyes: Crusades, wars, enmities, alliances, eternal subterfuge. Fripp’s vision brings the very stones and glass of cathedrals and castles to life. History becomes a tapestry which Eleanor works, stitch by stitch. At eighty-one, she hasn’t much time. We feel her urgency, the ache in her knees, the chill in her bones. Will she finish before she dies? Her sorrow of lost love, lost children, lost time is as real as the triumphs of her extraordinary life. Eleanor emerges as a woman of great wisdom, dearly won. A real woman, with a strong sense of her place in this life and the next.
“What a great read! This is so gripping. I got so totally caught up in this story one night that I woke up with images of Eleanor in my mind, and Kate Hepburn’s voice in my ear. I love this story.”
“I’m really enjoying the Eleanor book! It’s very beautifully written!”
~ June Engel, Ph.D., Author, The Complete Breast Book
“Robert Fripp’s skillful prose sheds a unique perspective on one of the most enigmatic women in history: Eleanor of Aquitaine. ‘Power of a Woman‘ records Eleanor’s dictated memoirs, making it a must read for anyone interested in this world-worn queen and her strife-torn times. Indeed, it will appeal to anyone who just enjoys a good historical read. The style reminds me somewhat of ‘I, Claudius’, which is huge praise in this reviewer’s eyes.”
First posted on “The Lion in Winter” Yahoo! Group
“How captivated I was with “Power of a Woman“! I found the ruthless nature of the twelfth century shocking, wrought with not only loveless, but murderous marriages! I understood that alliances (marriages) were the crucial scaffolding on which the survival of a clan depended, but I did not realize that royal issue became betrothed as infants, and that the female of the match went to live with future in-laws in order to be more completely absorbed into the social intricacies of that clan. Simply, the toddler was held hostage to present and future intrigues. Shocking indeed.
“What particularly fascinated me in this telling saga of noble, military and religious life during the Middle Ages was the description of how Eleanor developed her own spin on Chivalrous Love. What a creative way of compromising three conflicting demands: an individual’s yearning for love and intimate recognition, the passionate and artful culture of courtship and restraint, and the absolute necessity of loveless, politically-sanctioned marriage.
“I enjoyed the book immensely, and am astonished that the author was able to write from inside such a particular, feminine persona as Eleanor of Aquitaine. I was immediately hijacked by the voice of Eleanor, and became a willing victim of her extraordinary prowess. What a dame!”
~ C.J. Jonas
Posted on Amazon.com & Lulu.com on July 18, 2008
I was struggling to grasp the historical context of Eleanor’s life. But “Power of a Woman” brings her alive in lucid, rhythmic words and we understand for the first time her seemingly odd behavior. Fripp’s writing is excellent! I teach fiction and historical writing, so I will say right out that he is a rare magician, a “writer’s writer.” A first-person historical novel is difficult to pull off: the author-narrator is denied many tricks of a writer’s trade. But “Power of a Woman” is written with exquisite sensitivity and good grace.
~ Margaret Schmidt, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL
“I’m most delighted to be reading the ‘memoirs’ of Eleanor. Reading your words, Robert, and a man’s at that, I am amazed at the stunning ability to bring to life this woman. This book of yours Robert will be a gift to self. I will hope to acquire an autographed copy!”
~ Lani Lila, Chico, CA
“The extracts from the novel are very interesting, catchy — in first person — you can hear Eleanor speaking her mind…”
Posted on HistoricalFiction.com on June 8, 2010
“Interesting that [Norah Lofts] is writing about Eleanor of Aquitaine, as I just finished (for our book club) another book about her: Power of a Woman by Robert Fripp. This book … does her justice. (I was writing on Teaser Tuesdays a great quote from it: “Kings have lain me. But what man can claim me?” Great book I recommend to you all.”
~ Liz Steinkamp
Posted on HistoricalFiction.com on April 27, 2010
“Those of you who know me know that I’m not a big fan of historical fiction. (I prefer historical fact). So you must also know that in order for me to give a work of historical fiction a high rating, it has to offer something extraordinary. This Robert Fripp has done in “Power of a Woman…” [Emphasis added]
In this highly unusual fictional autobiography, Mr. Fripp tell’s Eleanor’s story “in her own words,” as if she is dictating to a young lady in her household. She reminisces about her past, … occasionally digressing to remark on another event, or person, or place, of which the current subject reminds her, just as you or I might do in a rambling conversation with a friend.
Eleanor is very much aware that her long life is drawing to a close and that, having experienced so many significant events, she owes it to posterity to record her story, as she remembers and understands it. Yet she still finds time to muse on the present and the future, and to tease and cajole the young scribe, Aline. In this way, the author brings the reader that much closer to Eleanor, humanizing her in a way that a standard biography or even a fictionalized third-person account could seldom do.
In telling the story, the author strikes just the right balance with his phrasing and pace. Mercifully, he avoids the heavy-handed archaic speech the untutored like to think of as “medieval” and instead uses a fluid, often eloquent prose. He also succeeds in immersing himself thoroughly in the character. One of the delights of the book is getting to know such figures as Henry II and Richard the Lionheart – not so much as an objective historian would know them, but as Eleanor knew them, thought of them, and remembered them at the end of her life. Even the ever-silent Aline becomes a real character through Eleanor’s eyes.
Mr. Fripp has taken on a monumental challenge. Not only does he handle the delicate balancing act of telling a good story while maintaining accurate historical detail, but he does so by getting inside the head of someone who actually lived more than 800 years ago. Furthermore, it’s not just any someone from our medieval past that Mr. Fripp has chosen to channel. It’s none other than the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who is generally considered one of the most (if not the most) extraordinary women of the Middle Ages.
I always get a little leery when a male author uses the first person to write about a woman character, whether fictional or real. It’s so easy for the unwary to strike a false chord with a common male misconception about the feminine psyche, or with a masculine outlook that doesn’t gel with the experiences of the female. But Mr. Fripp succeeds nicely in avoiding these pitfalls. At the same time, he exhibits an unerring sense of the medieval viewpoint. This is, perhaps, even more surprising, since it is often so difficult for modern readers to understand how very differently people of the Middle Ages looked at life.
And clearly the author has done his homework, not only about Eleanor herself but the time she lived in and the people she knew. I’ve read several biographies of the queen and I literally can’t count the works I’ve read that explore 12th-century England, France and the Holy Land, but I’m convinced that Mr. Fripp has far exceeded me in his diligent research of the topic. There are a few points about which I could quibble, but nothing to detract from the main thrust of the book.
If I had to choose a drawback, it would be the book’s length. As Eleanor drew towards the end of her life and her digressions became more frequent, it took a little too long to reach the final chapter. But then, Eleanor’s life was very long — she lived to be 82, in an age when few people lived much later than 50 — and I, as usual, was in a hurry to be done. I will readily admit that had I more leisure time to devote to the work, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. It is a work to take your time with, much as you would want to prolong a conversation with an old friend.”
~ Melissa Snell
Guide to Medieval History, About.com