Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Audio Book Review: A Brief History of Montmaray, by Michelle Cooper

While it took me a while to get into A Brief History of Montmaray, by the end the book had totally sucked me in.

Montmaray is a tiny island kingdom in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. The only people on the island are Sophie FitzOsborne (our narrator), her sister Henri, and her cousin Veronica who are all princesses. Uncle John is the king, who is confined mostly to his bed and out of his head. And the housekeeper, who doesn't keep much house.

The FitzOsbornes are poor and the castle is falling down. There are only a few people left in the village. Much of the book is just an account, via Sophie's journal, of the daily struggles of living in this leaky castle. Candles must be rationed, as well as food. They definitely don't live like royalty! The heir to the throne, Sophie's brother, is away at school in England. Aunt Charlotte also lives in England and is in charge of the family and what little money they have.

It's 1936-37, and tensions are high in England, France, and Germany as Hitler's influence is being felt. It's hard for the FitzOsbornes to understand what is going on from so far away and with what little contact they have with the outside world. But one day, a German scientist and his assistant land on the island, and Sophie and Veronica realize that it's possible that danger has come to them.

And it has. Once they start interacting with their visitors, the plot begins to move. There are a few deaths that really change the course of events. The descriptions of the island, and especially the cold rain and wind had me shivering.

I think I liked the characters and the setting of A Brief History of Montmaray the best. The story was OK, but only because of the vivid descriptions.

The audio version was very good. I really enjoyed the voices that  Emma Bering, the narrator, created for the characters. Until about halfway through the book, I thought I wouldn't be picking up the sequel. But I came to love and care for the characters, and now I want to know what happens to them since the upheaval at the end of A Brief History of Montmaray. The second book, The FitzOsbornes in Exile and the third The FitzOsbornes at War are already available -- so no waiting!

I would recommend this a bit carefully to several of my teens that I know would enjoy the history, the excitement, and especially the vivid characters in A Brief History of Montmaray.

Published by Knopf BFYR, 2009
Audio book obtained from the library
304 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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