Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver

I have benefited greatly from the Sonlight curriculum. Not directly--I’ve never taken a year of it. I have, however, snitched what books appealed to me from the rows of different grades and read them when I pleased.

One of these is A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by E. L. Konigsburg, author of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (<3). I actually read it a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it then. I recently picked it up again, though, because it’s about Queen Eleanor and I just recently finished the monarchs-and-lords-and-conquests-and-wars-oh-my! part of my England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings.

Let me tell you, I laughed.

I’m not sure what genre this book falls into--at a wild guess, creative nonfiction or creative biography. It opens in Heaven in the 20th century, with Eleanor waiting to see if her second husband, King Henry II, will get to “come Up.”. Yes, theologically, it doesn’t quite match up with my beliefs. That’s not really the point though. She’s waiting with three people who have been with her in different parts of her life--Abbot Sugar, Empress Matilda (her mother-in-law), and William Marshal (a knight). While waiting for the outcome of Henry II’s trial, these three and Eleanor herself go over the story of her life.

Not only does Konigsburg make the history fascinating, she adds in the voices of these four characters (my personal favourite is Matilda) and bits of hilarious dialogue. She paints the tapestry of a truly remarkable woman and makes the times every bit as fascinating as they were.

Queen Eleanor’s lifetime was quite lengthy, and she was quite in the mix of things! We see bits of the I believe the second crusade, France’s affairs when married to her first husband, Normandy and England’s (quite turbulent) when married to her second, and everything else mixed up: Aquataine, her quarrelsome sons, the Vexin, France again...and again, through the eyes of four different people, who speak in different ways (Matilda always refers to King Stephen as “my worthless nephew” which yes, made me laugh out loud...).

It’s a biography, and a history, and a story (as history ought to be) all wrapped up in one.

I know this isn’t a Robin Hood book, but still. Highly recommended. I can’t promise you’ll laugh out loud like I did, because that may just be a side-affect of studying too much of this time period. I do think you have a good chance of enjoying it, though, and perhaps help events and ancient peoples stick in your head a bit better, as they always do when taught about in an entertaining way.


Charlotte Grace said...

We had to read this last year for school. I loved it. :D

SophiaK said...

I remember reading this a few years ago and I loved it. Why can't more books about famous people be this much fun to read?

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