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A Brief History of Montmaray (The Montmaray Journals #1)

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  4,546 Ratings  ·  722 Reviews
“There’s a fine line between gossip and history, when one is talking about kings.”

Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trick
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published June 2nd 2008)
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Piper (An Ocean of Words) It describes the last months spent on Island kingdom called Montmaray- where the last remaining members of the Fitzosbourne's, the royal family live.…moreIt describes the last months spent on Island kingdom called Montmaray- where the last remaining members of the Fitzosbourne's, the royal family live. Everything is fine until Nazi arrive and Montmaray's royal family is forced to deal with the reality of the coming war. It's told from a young girl's perspective. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jun 12, 2011 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: QT! QT!
Recommended to Mariel by: I read everything like all my favorites except 'Castle' readalikes. I need to expand!
Michelle Cooper is the Quentin Tarantino of young adult novels. Not really original, kinda wears their influences on most of the outfit if one is being honest, but what she does right is really hard to do and better, I think, than originality. (Not that I wouldn't agree that Michelle Cooper owes big time royalties to Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle.) Cooper is funny. I was down in the dumps and the two Montmaray books cheered me up when nothing else did. (This analogy might not work well for ...more
This book would have been a perfect companion for my fifteen year old self. I think I simply found this one too late to be receptive to many of its charms. This is a book that one should hand to a young girl to introduce her into a world that I've already found. I've already read I Capture the Castle, I've already peeked into the mad wife's attic, and Elinor Dashwood and I are old friends. I've visited Avalon, I've immersed myself in King Henry's court, and I already majored in European history. ...more
Mar 09, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, ya
I was completely captivated by "A Brief History of Montmaray" The plot builds with such subtle skill that I was absolutely sucked in to the breathtaking conclusion--even as I had kind of figured out most of the "revelations" along the way. What I love is that it goes from describing all the quirky, endearingly hum-drum aspects of everyday life (as "everyday" as it can be for the few remaining members of the royal family of Montmaray in their crumbling castle on an island two hundred miles from a ...more
December 11, 2013

It's not the perfect book for everyone, but for those who love I Capture the Castle and Code Name Verity, it should be a very good fit. The surface is the story of three princesses living in a medieval castle (almost) on a tiny rocky outcrop in the Atlantic, among the last few residents of the miniscule kingdom of Montmaray. The time is 1936. As the title implies, a fair amount of history is revealed, all of it accurate except for the ruling family and the island itself. Self-ap
Mar 11, 2011 Miriam rated it really liked it
I loved this book surprisingly much! It was like I Capture the Castle only with all the things I didn't like in that book changed: the useless parents were less present, about half the obsessing about boys was replaced with adventure, and I liked most of the characters better. Plus there were carrier pigeons, storms, and Nazi attacks!
Jul 06, 2011 Hirondelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Meh. This sounded much better than it turned out to be. And this time I even followed that one rule that I always skip and then regret, of reading a couple pages BEFORE buying the book, just to make sure. I think I was deceived because the first couple pages are a letter from Toby and Tobys letters are the liveliest, most charming pieces of this narrative.

This is somewhat derivative, it strongly brings to mind I Capture the Castle, up to secondary characters names (Simon), and as well in type o
This book is Sophie's first person diary/journal account of the events and people of the island kingdom of Montmaray. Set in 1936 the world is gearing up for turmoil, and it soon becomes clear that Montmaray will not be immune.

As the residents of Montmaray continue to relocate, and as the king grows more and more senile, the duties and responsibilities fall to his children and his nieces and nephews - most under the age of twenty. So, when an offer comes from an aunt for Sophie and her cousin Ve
Oct 17, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, author-is-a-poc
Ahh I really liked this! It was such an interesting premise and I loooved the setting and characters. As far as critiques go, my main issue is that I felt like the narration style of this book was maybe SO much in Sophie's head that it left me feeling a bit removed from the plot so things moved a touch slowly and I had less of an emotional response to this than I was hoping for. I'm not saying I would completely change the way it was written because I really did love Sophie and I thought her voi ...more
Sophie FitzOsborne is a teenage girl living on the small island kingdom of Montmaray, a desolated place populated by a decaying craggily castle, wherein there are “as many Royal Highnesses on the island as there are subjects”. Sophie is determined to document life on the island, and armed with her trusty journal, she paints us a vivd picture of life within the castle, which includes a raving, lunatic King with a penchant for throwing chamber pots about his bedroom, extreme weather conditions, il ...more
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

October, 1936 - the sovereign island nation of Montmaray seems an idyllic, impossible place. Sitting a scant few hundred miles off the coasts of England and France, Montmaray and her inhabitants are a strange, quirky bunch. With as many FitzOsborne royal highnesses (4 on the island, with one prince heir studying at Eton) as there are inhabitants, the handful of countrymen and women hardly stand on ceremony - especially considering how threadbare and impov
Feb 19, 2011 Catriona rated it it was amazing
I cried. Yes ladies and gentleman, ACTUAL tears sprouted. This book is just gorgeous. ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!

You know when you have a strong love for something, that’s so strong it hurts? That’s what I feel with this book. This was the type of novel that if my friends touched it I would go mad. I would physically warn them not to bend the cover, I want to cherish this book forever and ever! One of the short review things on the back says “Bitter sweet and delectable, this book deserves to be an ins
Jul 28, 2013 QNPoohBear rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant coming of age story set just before World War II in a fictional island nation off the coast of Spain. Sophia is a good narrator. She's quiet, caring and observant yet she doubts her own abilities until faced with a crisis. All of the characters truly come to life and become flesh and blood before the reader's eyes. The author does an amazing job sharing the history of Montmaray, complete with quirky ancestors. I loved the epic poem which Violet dismisses as nonsense but prov ...more
I read Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray what feels like a million years ago, but was more likely sometime in 2009. Obviously I bought it because the cover was so pretty and really evoked what was the ultimate feel of the novel. It feels like I read this book a million years ago because it was one of those books that I just loved so much that it sort of crept onto my list of Those Books. The books you recommend to everyone. The books that you clutch to your chest and hope to share w ...more
Bill Kupersmith
Oct 16, 2015 Bill Kupersmith rated it really liked it
Shelves: me-emma
With A Brief History of Montmaray determining what it is that one’s trying to rate is the difficult part. I’d start by dropping any comparisons with Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, tho’ both are set in the 1930s & purportedly the diaries of teenage girls living in rackety old castles. (The narrator Sophie FitzOsborne’s cousin Veronica would be quick to point out that theirs in not a ‘castle’ but a ‘fortified house’ featuring a ‘curtain’ - a word I’d not encountered in that sense since re ...more
Apr 10, 2011 Deborah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: highly-recommend
A couple of months ago, a friend sent a short list of recommended YA reads. On this list was A Brief History of Montmaray, with the note: "I don't normally go in for princesses but this one is pretty awesome." I've never been interested in princesses, either, so the note piqued my curiosity. What would make a princess interesting to me?

A Brief History of Montmaray, apparently!

Sophia, whose journal entries comprise this brief history, is one of several princesses of the island of Montmaray. The e
Apr 21, 2016 meredith rated it really liked it
Ugh, so good! This should really be made into a mini-series/movie. It is just screaming for an adaptation. Inspired by I Capture the Castle in the best possible way, A Brief History of Montmaray tells the story of the royal family on the island kingdom of Montmaray on the brink of World War II. The setting is wonderfully originally, especially for those who love stories set during the time period but get tired of the same formula used over and over again. The tiny kingdom of Montmaray was wacky ...more
Nov 12, 2012 Shoug rated it it was amazing
"A Brief History of Montmaray" is true gem. I won't talk about how much I appreciated the detailed (but never overbearing) world building and unpredictable plot twists, no no, that simply won't do. I was (and still am, mind you) completely immersed and tangled into the lives of Michelle Cooper's characters. Don't get me wrong, all the character's in this novel were beautifully layered and kept blossoming until the very end, but it was the protagonist, Sophie FitzOsbone who settled into a special ...more
Ginny Messina
Oct 02, 2012 Ginny Messina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
Sophie and her delightfully quirky family are the last descendents of the royal family of Montmaray, a small, remote and all but abandoned island off the coast of Spain. It’s just the family, a few servants, plus four Montmaravian citizens living in the village. There’s a castle, lots of forbidding weather, and some wonderful characters, especially Veronica (loved her!) and Henry.

I considered shaving a star off my review because of two annoying things. One was that the author failed to give a n
joy *the clean-reader extraordinaire*
one blurb i saw about this book called it smart and engaging. that it certainly was! it's like a much more accessible (and much less flat-out weird) version of I Capture the Castle.

the island's culture, geography, and 'history'
the crumbling castle in all its glory
every character under the age of 25!

here's a tidbit that will be of little interest except to me -- the narrator of this book is possibly the first ever fictional character that reminds me strongly of myself. (my husband would s
Based upon reviews, I eagerly anticipated this book. A fictitious island off the coast of England and Spain that had been settled and ruled by a family from Tudor England until the 1930s. Hit hard by the depression, money had run out and the island was now only inhabited by the royal family and a few loyal servants. Written in diary format and from the perspective of the king's niece, the author clearly used I Capture the Castle as her model. Sadly I found the pacing glacial and the diary format ...more
Miss Clark
Jul 12, 2013 Miss Clark rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
An excellent start. Very plausible and a well-integrated use of historical events. Only misstep was the gay subplot w/ Sophie's brother and cousin. The reactions all sounded very off for that time period. It would have been much more of an issue then.

That said, the book did not amaze me as it did so many of the people that recommended it. I liked the character interaction, the family dynamics, Sophie's voice as narrator and the setting. It has a lot going for it, but something is still missing.

Oct 21, 2011 Jasmine rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, 2011
Really a 3.5. This was a totally enjoyable book for me, but that might be because it hits a few things that I adore: epistolary (the whole thing is written as diary entries), about a family on a basically abandoned imaginary European island, oh and the family are impoverished royalty, it's set during the 30's right as the English king is abdicating and as the Spanish war is going on, etc. Oh, and of course there are Family Secrets. Maybe a little shallow but fun. I'm excited to read the sequel.
Lydia Presley
This book was a lot like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.. but it added a bit more action into the story, unlike hers.

What I didn't like was 100+ pages of building up the story then all of the sudden turning around and throwing some really far-fetched, action grabbing scenes into it all. Just when I was settled down to enjoy the story that had been built everything was thrown into chaos.

I loved the ending to I Capture the Castle.. this ending I did not love so much.
Feb 28, 2011 Melee rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I was surprised how gripped I was by the last 50 pages or so of this book. Up until that point it hadn't been particularly compulsive reading, but still enjoyable.
This is probably more 3.5 stars but I'm rounding it up. I wish there were more YA novels being written with such a wonderful setting as this one.

(Oh, and gotta love an author who mentions in her notes that she used some biographies about the Mitfords to help her with the historical setting!)
Sep 14, 2011 Rosemary rated it it was amazing
If your bookshelf is filled with titles like Rebecca, I Captured The Castle, and Love In A Cold Climate, you'll want to add this pitch-perfect historical novel narrated by a ragamuffin princess and set in the late 1930s. I'd write more but I'm off to enjoy Cooper's sequel, The FitzOsbornes in Exile.
Jul 05, 2016 al rated it it was amazing
"And now I will close up my book and stand, my chin as high as Queen Matilda's, and I will step bravely into my terrifying, exciting future."

5 stars every time forever and ever! This book warms my heart so much and I will gladly go on this journey with Sophie over and over again.
Dec 24, 2014 aja rated it really liked it
i loveD THIS BOOK but i'm in mobile & about to decorate my christmas tree so i'll review later
Cass -  Words on Paper
Posted on my blog.


I was on a Vintage Classics high, and that's when I discovered that A Brief History of Montmaray was being re-published. I commented on Michelle Cooper's (author) blog and I was just overcome by joy when she sent me an email offering me a review copy of her book. (She also signed it! <3) Guys! If you haven't heard of the Vintage Classics, seriously, get on it now. They're so beautiful, and what makes this line rise above the HC Penguin Classics line--they're cheap! And
Alex Baugh
Jan 24, 2011 Alex Baugh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-2
The brief history referred to in the title of this novel is the entries made by the main character, Sophie FitzOsborne, after she receives a diary for her 16th birthday from her brother Toby.

Montmaray is a very small fictional island in the English Channel at the mouth of the Bay of Biscay. The FitzOsbornes are the reigning royal family on the island. However, its royal residents only include, besides Sophie, her 10 year old tomboy sister Henry (short for Henrietta), her beautiful cousin Veroni
Apr 04, 2012 kris rated it liked it
I want more of this world (which I know I will get in books 2 & 3, but stay with me a second here); I wanted to know more about being raised on an island with only a handful of people as neighbors and friends and enemies and whatnot. I wanted to know more about the kingdom, and how it survived and did trade and involved itself in politics and how Sophie's life changed once her parents died. I so badly want those months where she and Toby and Henry were adjusting to life on the island.

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Michelle Cooper writes novels for teenagers. She is the award-winning author of A Brief History of Montmaray, The FitzOsbornes in Exile and The Rage of Sheep.

More Info:
Michelle was born in Sydney, Australia in 1969. She attended a succession of schools in Fiji and country New South Wales, then went to university in Sydney. She started a Pharmacy degree, but didn't like it very much. She dropped ou
More about Michelle Cooper...

Other Books in the Series

The Montmaray Journals (3 books)
  • The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2)
  • The FitzOsbornes at War (The Montmaray Journals, #3)

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“There’s a fine line between gossip and history, when one is talking about kings.” 49 likes
“The way she told it, the English counties are littered with aging spinsters who accidentally displayed a spark of intelligence at a debutante dance and were banished forever from civilized society” 12 likes
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