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Other Reads > "A Brief History of Montmaray"

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 14 comments I just finished A Brief History of Montmaray and loved it! There are inevitable comparisons to "I Capture the Castle" and it's also set on the cusp of WWII so I thought some of you might be interested in this. It's a YA from Australian author Michelle Cooper.

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 anywhere in Europe) to being this heart-pumping adventure of political intrigue and family tragedy and, ultimately, of hope. The characters are what really sold it for me, though. It's a cast of characters that, in less skilled authorial hands, could be laughable characatures but here it all seems absolutely plausible: the insane king; his stalwart, beautiful and bookish teenage daughter; the good-hearted, easygoing (too easygoing) nephew and reluctant heir to the throne (off to University in England); the niece on the cusp of adulthood (our narrator), who learns lessons about love and responsibility and heritage and progress; the other niece, Henrietta-who-prefers-to-be-called-Henry and wishes she was a boy (and acts like one); Simon, the son of the housekeeper who is so handsome and outgoing and with whom our narrator may possibly be in love--or, at least, deep infatuation. There are family secrets and Nazis and storms and peril. The distant allure of London and civilization beckon, yet crumbling Montmaray Castle holds fast to our narrator's heart. I've no doubt it will stay in mine, too.

This is classified as "historical fiction" and while the entire Montmaray family and "kingdom" is the fiction aspect, many key figures and events of WWII are woven into the story so skillfully and seamlessly. I think this is what all good historical fiction is about--giving you characters you really care about and enticing you to read THEIR story, while along the way you might actually learn something--or remember something that you forgot from much less interesting textbooks.

As for the inevitable comparisons to "I Capture the Castle"--I really don't think there are many besides that it's a coming-of-age story featuring a scribbling teenager living in a decrepit castle. And that both are quite good ;-)

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee (leekat) Kathryn, I saw your review and added it immediately! It sounds wonderful!

message 3: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn | 14 comments I hope you enjoy it :-)

message 4: by Gabriele (new)

Gabriele Wills (muskoka) | 526 comments Mod
Sounds fascinating, Kathryn. It's on my TBR list now too!

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