Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Brief History of Montmaray” as Want to Read:
A Brief History of Montmaray
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Brief History of Montmaray

(The Montmaray Journals #1)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  5,514 ratings  ·  826 reviews
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 trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Euro ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published June 2nd 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Brief History of Montmaray, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Julia It is but very low key. There's a girl who insists she's a boy, and there is speculation that two of the characters are engaged in a homosexual relati…moreIt is but very low key. There's a girl who insists she's a boy, and there is speculation that two of the characters are engaged in a homosexual relationship, but that's about it. Nothing in your face. (less)
Julia No sex or swearing. It's a teen book that feels more like a YA, the young narrator has a tremendous crush on another character. When she does refer to…moreNo sex or swearing. It's a teen book that feels more like a YA, the young narrator has a tremendous crush on another character. When she does refer to sex she calls it "It" and is very squeamish on the subject.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,514 ratings  ·  826 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Brief History of Montmaray
Jun 04, 2011 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 31, 2009 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
Kaethe Douglas
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
Jul 17, 2009 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! ...more
May 10, 2011 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 Toby´s 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 character´s names (Simon), and as well in type
4.5 Stars for A Brief History of Montmaray: The Montmaray Journals Series, Book 1 (audiobook) by Michelle Cooper read by Emma Bering. I really enjoyed this. The characters and the setting were great. This is probably the most unique novel I’ve read set during WWII.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Review March 2020:

I stumbled across this series on my shelves as I was moving and I decided to re-read them, see if I still loved these three books as much as I did (8!!!!) years ago when I first read them. Well I can tell you that I finished this book finding myself STILL in love with Sophie. She's such a great character, sister, cousin, etc. YA needs more heroines like her. And the setting and the history had me more intrigued this time around. Still a solid 4 stars, its a good beginning to th
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
Book Concierge
From the book jacket: Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray, along with her tomboy younger sister Henry, her beautiful, intellectual cousin Veronica, and her uncle, the completely mad King John. When Sophie receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, she decides to write about her day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war.

My reactions
I was bored, and fin
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
Jul 28, 2013 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
Shortly after New Years I sat down and selected a list of twelve audiobooks from Overdrive that have been languishing on my 'No Seriously TBR' for far too long. I'm hoping to get to one a month and feel slightly better about my depressing backlog. This was the first, and I adored it as much as I was hoping to. Now, however, I am faced with the issue of desperately needing to read the rest of the series. #mobooksmoproblems ...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
Beth Bonini
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
The description of this book had a strong and immediate appeal for me, but I couldn't help but worry that a YA novel that was being compared to so many of my very favourite YA novels would end up being a disappointing pastiche. Yes, you will be reminded of I Capture the Castle -- in fact, the author pays direct homage to that book. Fans of the historical/war/strong female character genre will also find shades of Code Name Verity in this book, although Australian author Michelle Cooper got there ...more
Ahh I really love this book! It's such an interesting premise and I looove the setting and characters. I think Michelle Cooper has such a strong grasp on this world that she has built. Something about this book is so cozy and familiar, like it was one of my favorites as a child even though I first read it as an adult.

As far as critiques go, my main issue is that I feel like the narration style of this book is maybe SO much in Sophie's head that it left me feeling a bit removed from the plot. I'm
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Very, very similar to I Capture the Castle but I did not particularly like that book and I enjoyed this one.
I enjoyed it right up until climax/dramatic escape scene...and then honestly, I just sort of got bored. I don't feel inclined to find the others in the series. It was like, 'oh, that was nice. Okay. No more.' But I like the way the author engages with World War 2 and I found her heroines likable and winsome with only a touch too much angst.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Who Enjoy Ruritanian Romance and/or Are Looking for WWII-Era Young Adult Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Sophia Margaret Elizabeth Jane Clementine FitzOsborne (better known as Sophie), a princess in the royal family of a tiny island kingdom lying in the Bay of Biscay, midway between Britain and the Iberian peninsula, records the twilight days of Montmaray, just before the outbreak of World War II, in this young adult novel from Australia. With a population depleted by the ravages of World War I - the island's adult male population was almost entirely wiped out, fighting in the Mont ...more
Katie Hanna
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 stars! I would have given this book 4 stars just for the story, but it's told in diary format, which ... is never my favorite. I definitely understand why the author wanted the story have that extra layer of subjectivity, it's a teenage girl's private diary, and it works pretty well for what it is--I just don't love that particular device. I don't usually like episotlary novels either, for the same reason. It just adds an extra layer of "telling" rather than showing which lacks immediacy for ...more
Feb 19, 2011 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
Mar 25, 2011 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
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
Nov 10, 2013 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.
Lynn Spencer
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rather enjoyed reading this one. It's an odd mixture of obvious homage to I Capture the Castle and yet something original. Told from the journal of Sophie FitzOsbourne, we see the royal family of the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray as they move through life in their crumbling castle. What sets this book apart is that instead of feeling like the family lives in a world out of time, we see them instead on a collision course with outside historical events.

As Europe heads toward World War II, thi
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Enjoyed the start of this book, which reads very heavily like I Capture the Castle, so heavily that pretty much every review of this book notes the fact. I adore I Capture the Castle and was charmed early on by A Brief History of Montmaray, which is about a girl coming of age in a crumbling castle technically ruled by her antisocial uncle who hardly leaves his room. Stiche spends most of her time admiring her elder sister and mooning over the housekeeper's son. However, the charm began to wear o ...more
Carmen Liffengren
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

It's a good thing I love I Capture the Castle because this book more than borrows from that epistolary novel. There's Sophie, ever reminiscent of Cassandra, using her journal to tell the story of the remaining FitzOsborne royal family in the deteriorating castle on the Isle of Montmaray. It's almost plagiarism of Dodie Smith's novel, that is, until the narrative diverges when some German officers find themselves on Montmaray. I enjoyed many aspects of this novel and I am rather curious
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 02, 2015 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 readin ...more
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, bestof2016
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
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fiction-ya
Why is it that I enjoy an epistolary novel more than I would if it were just first person? I guess because of the added layer of imagining Sophie describing her life and events in her brand-new Moroccan bound journal, with thick, creamy pages, which Sophie describes as almost too nice to write in.

It's not a perfect format -- there's a lot of history in it, made more plausible because Sophie's cousin, Veronica, is very intellectual and, as daughter of the King of Montmaray, John, feels obliged t
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Enigma Game
  • Paris in Love
  • No Wind of Blame (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #5)
  • Rose Under Fire
  • Weekend Wodehouse
  • Mémoires d'un âne
  • L'Auberge de l'Ange gardien
  • English Fairy Tales and Legends
  • Les Malheurs de Sophie
  • The Four Last Things (Roth, #1)
  • Why Shoot a Butler?
  • BL Metamorphosis, Vol. 1
  • The Last Thing He Needs (The Last Thing He Needs, #1)
  • A Blunt Instrument (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway, #4)
  • The Freshman
  • Men to Match My Mountains: The Opening of the Far West 1840-1900
  • The Boy Who Loved Wicked
  • Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt, #1)
See similar books…
Michelle Cooper writes novels for teenagers. She is the award-winning author of Dr Huxley's Bequest, A Brief History of Montmaray, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, The FitzOsbornes at War and The Rage of Sheep.

More Info:
Michelle was born in Sydney, Australia. She attended a succession of schools in Fiji and country New South Wales, then went to university in Sydney. She worked as a speech and language p

Other books in the series

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

Related Articles

  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
62 likes · 9 comments
“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” 13 likes
More quotes…