Friday, July 29, 2011

YA Historical Fiction: The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

Series: Montmaray Journals #2
Publisher: Knopf
Date: April 5, 2011
Format: hardback
Acquired: from Random Buzzers
Read: for my own enjoyment, and because I liked A Brief History of Montmaray so much
Pages: 450
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: Michelle Cooper combines the drama of pre-War Europe with the romance of debutante balls and gives us another compelling historical page turner. Sophia FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Germans attacked, and now find themselves in the lap of luxury. Sophie's journal fills us in on the social whirl of London's 1937 season, but even a princess in lovely new gowns finds it hard to fit in. Is there no other debutante who reads?! And while the balls and house parties go on, newspaper headlines scream of war in Spain and threats from Germany. No one wants a second world war. Especially not the Montmaravians—with all Europe under attack, who will care about the fate of their tiny island kingdom? Will the FitzOsbornes ever be able to go home again? Could Montmaray be lost forever?

My review: The FitzOsbornes in Exile has the same positive aspects as the first book, A Brief History of Montmaray, primarily in that it is a lighter look at World War Two that still incorporates a lot of historical  details. The characters' voices continue in much of their naiveté, though obviously they have changed since the Germans invaded Montmaray and forced the young royal family into exile. But all the characters remain delightful despite their trials, and readers will continue to laugh at Sophie's ramblings, Henry's hijinks, Toby's shirking of duties, and Veronica and Simon's verbal duels. Cooper unobtrusively works a great deal of pre-WWII politics and international affairs into the novel, and these details can be as noticeable as readers want them to be. Younger readers unfamiliar with European history may miss these in lieu of the main story, while others may choose to take notice and appreciate the subtle inclusions.

Complaints? The FitzOsbornes in Exile covers the years 1937-1939, and during that time the FitzOsbornes spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen. This means readers spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen, and it's easy to start getting a bit bored by about the middle of the book. Fortunately, the plot picks up at the end, and it becomes evident that Cooper made this book so long in order for it to end at the point in history when it does. But the delightful characters help hold interest for the slower-moving parts, and the author's unique blend of historical fact with a princess tale results in a novel great for either younger readers wanting a gentler introduction to World War Two fiction or fans of WWII fiction wanting a relief from more dark and depressing novels.

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