Book of the Week

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by E.L. Konigsburg


"During her lifetime, Eleanor of Aquitaine had not been a patient woman..."

E.L. Konigsburg wrote From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, one of my favorite kid's books of all time. I never thought to look for other stuff by her, but at the book sale I picked a few things up and one of them was A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. (Miniver, if you are wondering, is white or light grey fur used on robes of state. The English language has, I swear, words for EVERYTHING.)

This is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is my favorite queen mostly because Katherine Hepburn plays her in A Lion in Winter, which is one of my desert island movies. (If you happen to pick that up, make sure you get the Hepburn version, not the non-canonical remake starring Glen Close.)

I am leery of history retold for children, because it tends to leave out all the interesting parts, but this book doesn't make that mistake. When Eleanor divorces the King of France to marry the future King of England (yeah, see? best queen ever), you can see it's for sex and power, and you understand the way that she mingles the two in her mind. And Konigsburg isn't shy about describing -- not in gory detail, but she gets her point across -- some of the atrocities the French king commits in his wars.

Eleanor was exciting, brave, powerful and heartless; probably an extremely uncomfortable person to be around, but great to read about now that she's safely dead.

She is also credited with the invention of romance, if you're looking for someone to blame for that.

This book is no Mixed-Up Files, but it's not bad. It'd be a good book to pick up at your school library when you've finished your homework before everyone else and you need something to do, and also you're in fourth grade. Most adults probably won't be interested.