Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: A Brief History of Montmaray

This book could be compared to Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. Indeed, one of the endorsements on the back does just that, even venturing to assert that A Brief History of Montmaray is "even better than that much-adored book." Since I didn't give Smith's book a very favorable review, I will have to agree and say that this book is better. At the beginning it was feeling whiny and tiresome, another tale of poverty-stricken landed gentry, but by the end, I was feeling more charitable toward the story and even got caught up in the climax (a nail-biting ending, to be sure).

In October of 1936, Sophie FitzOsborne receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday and determines to set down her own account of her family's lives in their castle on the island of Montmaray. Although they are presented as royalty, they live a hard-scrabble life miles from conveniences and modernity. Her older brother is away at school, leaving Sophie in the ramshackle castle with her mad uncle, King John, her cousin, Veronica, and her younger sister, Henry (short for Henrietta, although if I had a daughter named Henrietta, I'd never allow it to be shortened to Henry, just sayin').

There were several exciting bits: two German soldiers land on the island and a terrifying chain of events unfolds, the housekeeper's loyalty is revealed as something more than it appears, and planes soar overhead (both friendly and not-so-friendly). I kept waiting for something significant to happen for Sophie, but in the end, she is merely a chronicler of sorted events. She never takes up with her love interest (the housekeeper's son, Simon, whom Veronica loathes). Many of the resolutions seemed simultaneously too tidy and meant to shock or amaze. It was better than Smith's book, but then, Smith's book wasn't my cup of tea, either. I won't seek out the rest of the Montmaray Journals series.

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