Thursday, July 28, 2011
YA Historical Fiction: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
From GoodReads: 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.
My review: A Brief History starts out rather enchanting; Sophie is a naive sixteen-year-old living the dream life of many young girls - she's a princess, albeit a poor one, who inhabits an old castle (technically a "fortified home") on a secluded island where the royal children are largely autonomous. Sophie's descriptions of her life only remain enchanting for a certain period, though, after which they become a bit boring as readers wait for the historical fiction, Nazi/WWII part of the story to kick in. But kick in it eventually does, a little over halfway through the novel, and the change in plot makes A Brief History a very worthwhile read. While the whole Montmaray-island kingdom aspect is not historical, Cooper's strong point is the depiction of a girl's emergence from innocence and naiveté that arises from the beginning of WWII hostilities. Like others of similar age during the time period, Sophie's world view is quickly forced to change when the Nazis arrive with soldiers, bombs, and death. What makes A Brief History unique from other WWII novels, however, is its fictional setting and characters, which lend a near-magical feel to the book that will hopefully attract readers who are not normally drawn to historical fiction. This reader, at least, is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next book in the series, The FitzOsbornes in Exile.
My copy of A Brief History of Montmaray was purchased with Buzz Bucks from Random House's Random Buzzers program. The novel was first published in October 2009.