Sunday, May 19, 2013

Heart and Home: A Brief History of Montmaray

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (The Montmaray Journals #1)
Knopf, 2009

I'll admit to not being the most wide-read individual when it comes to historical fiction, but I do generally enjoy it. In A Brief History of Montmaray, Australian author Michelle Cooper takes on a time period many of us are familiar with - World War II - but from a perspective with a twist.

Sophie FitzOsborne has spent her whole life living in a dilapidated castle on the small island country of Montmary. Located in the Atlantic, about equidistant from England and Spain, she is a member of the royal family which has suffered greatly since the Great War. In fact, the FitzOsbornes are the only inhabitants left of their small but once proud nation. Sophie's diary chronicles six months of life on the island, showing readers the day-to-day poverty Sophie and her remaining family endures, life living under the threat of war in 1936, and her general growing pains about relationships and if she should honor her aunt's request to come to England and properly join society as a princess ought to do.

To me, this story was an interesting combination of Dodie Smith's classic I Capture the Castle and Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries (but without the fairy tale). It took me a while to get into the story, with honestly not a whole lot of action happening until the final quarter of the novel. On the one hand, it left me needing to push to get through. On the other, I can applaud Cooper for wanting to keep the story grounded in realism - as someone who keeps a journal myself, I can attest that not every entry chronicles a day that is particularly exciting. Sophie as a narrator was something of a challenge for me. Yes she's 16 and she's more interested in boys and spinning up a little drama in her imagination, and I eventually liked her, but I never felt a strong connection with her.

While it doesn't have a cliffhanger ending in the truest sense, this is definitely a book that sets up for a sequel. I may not have been completely in love with this installment of the story, but my interest has been piqued enough where once my to-read pile gets a little smaller, I might consider borrowing books two and three from a library just to see how it all works out.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Michelle Cooper's Website

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