Kate's Reviews > The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

The Queen Mother by William Shawcross
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's review
Apr 16, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 06 to April 16, 2011

Overall, this was a very engaging book. Though extremely long, as befits such a long and noteworthy life story as that of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the combination of personal anecdote, education about royal custom and the monarchy, and history makes this worth the read. There are some annoyances, such as the author's tendency to namecheck, usually in a detailed footnote, what seems like every single person with whom the Queen Mother ever came into contact (I didn't feel as though knowing the names of the anesthesiologist for each of her several surgeries exactly enhanced the reading experience), but perhaps this is the kind of thing people like to use to claim that their great grand uncle once knew the Sovereign.

One thing the author is particularly adept with is weaving the letters that were used as the primary source material into the narrative as unobtrusively as possible. Shawcross manages to convey the deep emotion involved in many of the cornerstones of the life of the Queen Mother, particularly the abdication of Edward VII, the beginning and end of WWII, and the deaths of George VI (I found this part to be the most moving in the entire book) and finally of the Queen Mother herself. Occasionally though, the more typical 'royal biographer' tone takes over; this tone, where it seems like they are writing with the main intent of not angering the royal family still living, is especially notable when dealing with the death of Princess Diana (which seems especially glossed over) and is detectable when dealing with mentions of the Queen. It's not too troubling, given that the book isn't about them, but the deference is clear.

I would consider this a must-read for the avid Anglophile, but maybe not for those more interested in history of the monarchs in general.
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Reading Progress

03/30 page 450
45.0% "I'm enjoying this more than I thought I would. There's quite a bit of ye olde royals sucking up to royals, since I assume that royalty knows that private letters are really not private, but this actually comes off as entertaining. My major complaint is the name-dropping of seemingly every single person that the Queen Mother made even the most fleeting of contacts with, complete with footnote detailing the who's who."
01/05 marked as: read
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