Review posted August 24, 2013.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012. 552 pages.
This is the third and final volume about the royal family from the Island of Montmaray, a fictional island in the ocean between England and Spain. After the Nazis took over their kingdom in Book One, Sophie and her family have been living in exile in England.
Like the second book, The Fitzosbornes in Exile, the third volume is not as action-packed as the first book, A Brief History of Montmaray, when we had the original conflict with the Nazis and life-or-death confrontation. This book is more along the lines of Downton Abbey, only one war later, showing us how things were socially during World War II.
But Sophie and Veronica do have much more freedom than in the second book, when they first came to England. They both get jobs to help with the war effort, and send Sophie’s little sister Henry off to boarding school – if they can find one that will take her. Toby and Simon, of course, end up fighting.
This book covers the entire period of war between England and Germany. Since you know who won World War II, I think it’s safe to tell my readers that they get rid of the Nazis on their island. I won’t say how and when.
But most of the book is about the events of World War II from the ground. Yes, there’s some heartbreak here. And lots of bombing and fighting and danger. And, yes, Sophie’s growing up and ready to find a husband. Which reminds me – don’t leaf to the back of the book if you can resist. There’s a family tree at the back which shows all the marriages and children at the end of the book and gives quite a bit away.
This is a long book, and it moves at a rather leisurely pace. (I actually was spurred on to finish by looking at the family tree.) But I do believe that those who have already come to know and love Sophie and her family will be happy to spend more time seeing the world through Sophie’s eyes. You’ll get a taste of what it must have felt like to live during World War II while you’re at it.