Review Blog

Oct 11 2010

The FitzOsbornes in exile by Michelle Cooper

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The Montmaray Journals, Book 2. Random House Australia, 2010. ISBN 9781741663747.
(Age 13+) Highly recommended. I absolutely love historical novels and The FitzOsbornes in exile is history written at its best. Cooper has written a fine novel, full of exquisite detail about the period immediately leading up to World War 2. Full of real people like Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret and events like the bombing of Guernica and the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, this novel is 'a blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction' (pg 447). It enlightened me about so many world-changing events while entertaining me with glimpses of the life of the fascinating FitzOsborne family, as they tried to fit into upper crust society in England.
It is necessary to read the first in the series, A brief history of Montmaray, to fully discover the depth of the FitzOsborne characters and to work out some of the intricacies of the relationships. This novel carries on from the first and finds the FitzOsbornes, Veronica, Sophie, Henry, and Toby living with their Aunt Charlotte, a Montmaray princess, who husband Arthur has died, leaving her a fortune. After inhabiting a crumbling castle and fending for themselves, they have problems fitting into aristocratic society, where there are servants to meet their every need and their aunt is totally focused on finding them the right spouse. Sophie continues with her journal and the reader is carried through a breath taking description of life in society while she and Veronica are prepared to make their court presentation. Descriptions of world events like the bombing of Guernica and the evacuation of refugee children to England are heart wrenching. Sophie also describes much of the political machinations of the times as Veronica, left wing in her views, continues to meet with her intellectual tutor. Sophie is not above some Machiavellian games of her own as she convinces Simon to be reasonable about his parentage.
The group finds that the British government with its appeasement policy, is not prepared to do anything for Montamaray, even though the FitzOsbornes believe the island is being used as a point of departure for Nazi planes to bomb Spain. They are forced to take things into their own hands and here we see Sophie and Veronica coming into their own as strong, intelligent young women who are willing to fight for a cause.
This is a delightful mixture of fact and fiction that I found engrossing in its depiction of high society and a world approaching war. It will have special appeal for those who like a well-written, meticulously researched and entertaining story.
Pat Pledger

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