Title: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
Author: E. L. Konigsburg
Major Themes: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Louis VII, Henry II, Crusades, Knights, Chivalry
Synopsis: While they wait for Henry II to be released from Purgatory, Eleanor of Aquitaine, her mother-in-law, a knight and an abbot pass the time by telling stories from Eleanor’s life.
We love most books used in Sonlight Curriculum, but I’m sorry to say that we didn’t enjoy A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver very much. In fact, I didn’t even finish reading it to my boys. We read three or four chapters together, and then I just finished reading it to myself. My daughter says that she didn’t like it very well, either, when she read it several years ago. Win some, lose some.
As far as the history of the story goes, I believe it is accurate. I did enjoy learning about the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most interesting queens in the history of Europe. E. L. Konigsburg has done a superb job of coming up with a unique way to tell the story. When the story opens, Eleanor, her mother-in-law, a knight and an abbot, are all sitting on a cloud, waiting for Eleanor’s second husband to come Up to Heaven, after completing his time in Purgatory. To pass the time, they tell the story of Eleanor’s life, each from his or her own unique perspective. We hear first about her first marriage, to King Louis VII of France. After a number of years with him, she left and married King Henry II of England. They lived together a good while and had ten children together, including King Richard the Lionhearted and King John, the villain in the Robin Hood stories. Eleanor’s life was never peaceful; her personality required constant action, if not tumult!
I found fascinating the chapter that described how courtly love was developed and defined, in Eleanor’s court, as a game to keep her young people occupied. She was also responsible, according to this story, for the King Arthur stories as we know them. If you are interested in the Middle Ages, this book is a good way to get a feel for court life, if you can handle the switches back and forth between Heaven and Earth. I think that’s actually what my boys couldn’t handle. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it, but they did.
No warnings needed, other than the concept of Purgatory.
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above