Summer Reading: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver

“My life was marked by good happenings, bad happenings and sad ones, too. There were times when the bad and sad could have weighed me down. But to drink life from only the good is to taste only half of it. When I died in that year 1204 I smiled, knowing that I had drunk fully of both flavors. I had wasted nothing.”

I first read A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver when I was in fourth grade and recovering from a routine surgery in the hospital. I was lucky. Reading this admittedly strange, absolutely quirky, and richly detailed fictional biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine convinced me that history was fascinating—a conviction that even years of lectures on overhead projectors and bubble tests couldn’t manage to shake.

The book takes place in Heaven, where Eleanor is waiting to find out if her husband Henry II has finally put in enough years in Purgatory to join her in Heaven. (Hey, I told you it was a strange book!) While she waits with her friends and family, they tell the story of Eleanor’s life: her short-lived marriage and subsequent divorce to Louis VII of France, her tumultuous marriage to Henry Plantagenet, who would become the king of England, and her role as regent for her son Richard I while he was fighting in the Crusades after Henry’s death.

Eleanor comes to life through these stories as a complicated, impatient, stubborn, and impulsive girl who grows up to be a complicated, impatient, stubborn, and impulsive woman. It’s not difficult to see how she became the most powerful woman in the world during her lifetime. Both criticized and adored by her subjects in France and England, Eleanor — the wife of two kings and the mother of two kings — was a passionate supporter of the Second Crusade, one of the women cited in Capellanus’ The Art of Courtly Love, and a leader of a rebellion against her husband on her son’s behalf that led to her seventeen-year imprisonment.

Be warned: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver may create a lifelong addiction. (I still read everything about Eleanor of Aquitaine I can get my greedy, ink-stained hands on.) But even if it’s just a book on your summer reading list, it will bring medieval history to life in a way that your family won’t soon forget.


We’re reprinting some of Amy’s summer reading series favorites from Atlanta Homeschool magazine on the home/school/life blog.