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‘Power of a Woman’: the turbulent life of Eleanor of Aquitaine

‘Power of a Woman …’ ~ Melissa Snell reviews ‘a monumental challenge’:

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 — certainly worthy of the title ‘Power of a Woman

Chanelling Eleanor of Aquitaine: a "monumental challenge"

Eleanor of Aquitaine. Based on the bust at The Cloisters, NYC. © by Duncan Long. Commissioned by Robert Fripp for his book, ‘Power of a Woman …’

The Medieval Viewpoint

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 masculine outlook that doesn’t gel with the experience of the female. But Mr. Fripp succeeds 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 more modern readers to understand how very differently people of the Middle Ages looked at life.

Diligent research

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.

Channeling Eleanor of Aquitaine: a "monumental challenge"

Eleanor of Aquitaine in old age: In 1152 a mason carved a bust of Eleanor at thirty, twinning her features with her second husband’s, soon to be Henry II of England. The Cloisters in N.Y.C. houses the carving.  ¶ I asked forensic artist David Major to add 50 years to Eleanor’s face, conveying a feel for a woman of power just before she died in 1204. This is Eleanor short on time, with eight decades of memoirs she feels compelled to dictate. / Robert Fripp. Illustration Copyright David Major 2004

‘A work to take your time with’

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.

Robert Fripp has produced Power of a Woman: Eleanor of Aquitaine as an e-book, and as a print-on-demand paperback book (i.e. Amazon)

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Melissa Snell, ‘Your Guide to Medieval History’ for About.com, wrote “Monumental challenge” as a review of ‘Power of a Woman’ for her web site.