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A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle…
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A Brief History of Montmaray (2008)

by Michelle Cooper

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Admittedly, I put this book down before I finished it. It was very slow to start, and I kept waiting for the exciting part to begin. Well, then I received the sequel to review for School Library Journal, so I figured I should finish the first book in the series so I would know what was going on. I'm glad I did. I turns out I should have waited one more chapter because that's when things started to pick up. The FitzOsbornes' life seems pretty dull on the island of Montmaray, until German soldiers show up. The young royals soon figure out that the trespassers are likely SS and are searching for the Holy Grail on the tiny island. When one of the men turns up missing, a larger Nazi party arrives, and the lead man promises revenge. What will become of the family when the Germans keep their promise? Full of bloodshed, terror, adventure, and history, A Brief History of Montmaray is a tome you want to patiently ease through. The sequel promises further adventures of the FitzOsbornes. ( )
  wscalfaro | Aug 6, 2014 |
Princess Sophia FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle on the tiny island of Montmaray with her tomboy younger sister, Henry, her brilliant cousin Princess Veronica and her insane uncle, King John. Her journal entries are typically filled with accounts of her chores and musings about her crush--that is, until rumors of a second world war reach their isolated home. Sophia's narrative voice in "A Brief History of Montmaray" reminds me of an old-fashioned Georgia Nicholson, full of humor and wry observations on life. The story itself is highly entertaining, especially when it takes a turn for the Gothic; fans of classics like "Rebecca" and "Jane Eyre" will enjoy this novel. ( )
  TheMadHatters | Feb 19, 2014 |
Like a mash-up between [b:I Capture the Castle|31122|I Capture the Castle|Dodie Smith|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1312011462s/31122.jpg|950769] and [b:How I Live Now|161426|How I Live Now|Meg Rosoff|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327870252s/161426.jpg|1132968]. Enjoyable. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
This story is about a fictional family from a fictional island country in the Atlantic Ocean, however, it was so well written and so well researched, it reads as if it really happened. The story is full of history, intrigue, adventure, Nazis attacking and a collection of brave and independent characters. ( )
  WendyVanBeelen | Jul 5, 2013 |
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 Montmaravian unit led by King John - and of emigration, an economy that had been bankrupted by the recent stock-market crash, and a ruler driven mad by his role in destroying his own people, Montmaray was in a steep decline, its royal family - mad King John, his scholarly daughter Victoria, his nephew and heir, Toby, and Toby's two sisters: our narrator, Sophie, and the tomboy ten-year-old Henry (Henriette) - practically the only residents left. As Sophie struggles with the decision to leave Montmaray - she has been offered a "season" in English high society, by her wealthy Aunt Charlotte - she also bears witness to the dramatic events, from a royal death to the invasion of the Nazis, that bring one chapter of her life, and of the life of Montmaray, to a close...

I was really quite excited when A Brief History of Montmaray was chosen as one of our "in the spirit" reads for the Kindred Spirits group to which I belong - dedicated to the work of L.M. Montgomery, we sometimes read books that have been nominated as being "in the spirit" of that author's work, in our book-club - as I have something of an interest in Ruritanian fantasy (sometimes also styled "Ruritanian Romance"), in which non-fantastic tales unfold in imaginary kingdoms. The praise heaped on this one by most of my goodreads friends, and by group members, led me to believe that, if nothing else, it would be an entertaining read. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite as charmed as I'd hoped, although the story did pick up a little bit for me, midway through the book. It wasn't that Cooper's tale was derivative - although it could very well be, judging by the frequency of comparisons, in other reviews, to Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle (which I have not yet read) - but more that I simply didn't care all that much about the characters. I'm struggling to put my finger on the issue, but something about them - perhaps because we see them through Sophie's journal, and her narrative voice isn't very strong? - felt very distant to me.

Still, as noted, I did get involved in the end - probably because the story switched from character study to outright action - and was racing through the final section, to see what would happen. I'm also, despite my lukewarm response to the first half of this book, planning to read the sequel, The FitzOsbornes in Exile (which our book-club is also discussing), so it obviously wasn't that bad. Hopefully I will feel more of a connection to some of the characters, in the subsequent book. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 24, 2013 |
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Epigraph
This is the journal of Sophia Margaret Elizabeth Jane Clementine FitzOsborne, begun this twenty-third day of October 1936, on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday.
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Dear Sophie, Happy birthday to my favorite little sister!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
“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 trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

A Brief History of Montmaray is a heart-stopping tale of loyalty, love, and loss, and of fighting to hold on to home when the world is exploding all around you.

“Once in a while, a special book will cross our paths and make us grateful for life and the ability to read. I’m talking about A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. I’m calling her Australia’s next stroke of literary brilliance.”—Viewpoint
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On her sixteenth birthday in 1936, Sophia begins a diary of life in a fictional island country off the coast of Spain, where she is among the last descendants of an impoverished royal family trying to hold their nation together on the eve of the second World War.… (more)

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