‘I need to write down what has just happened. I need to set down the truth. If I write lies or if I write nothing at all, this journal is worthless. I must do this, in case anything happens. All right. This is what happened tonight, every single terrible thing that I can remember . . .’
Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray, along with her tomboy younger sister Henry, her beautiful, intellectual cousin Veronica, and Veronica's father, the completely mad King John.
When Sophie receives a leather-bound journal for her sixteenth birthday, she decides to write about her day-to-day life on the island. But it is 1936 and the world is in turmoil. Does the arrival of two strangers threaten everything Sophie holds dear?
From Sophie's charming and lively observations to a nailbiting, unputdownable ending, this is a book to be treasured.
My Thoughts: A Brief History of Montmaray is penned by recently turned 16-year old Sophie Osborne, a princess of the isolated island of Montmaray. Population? 8. Year? 1936. Sophie lives on the island with her little sister Henrietta and her older cousin, Vicotoria, and dreams of moving to England, where she believes holds all the sparkly gowns and twinkling tiaras. But Sophie's about to get her wish a lot sooner than she hoped for. Hitler has his sights set on Montmaray, and he's not going to stop until it's either his or completely destroyed.
A Brief History of Montmaray was a vivid read full of ship-wrecking waves and beautifully descriptive historical references. I loved how the whole book was supposed to be Sophie's journal. It made Sophie easy to relate to, and it really gave me a sense for the struggling, young girl she was. I can't say that I liked Sophie 100% of the time and thought her a little spoiled at the beginning, but her insecurities were understandable and made me like her more after seeing her development through the story. Basically, Sophie's just that scared, innocent girl with dreams of a prince of a white horse. She reminded me of myself writing similar things, idea-wise, into my diary when I was younger.
Again, I loved all the historical references in this book. There was a boat-load of historical facts and incidents stuffed inside, but they were woven so seamlessly that they didn't detract from the story. My only problem with the historical side was that a good half of the book was used to describe the setting, which was amazing but not completely necessary for the rest of the story. I spent that portion aching to skim ahead and see when the "real" plot would begin, and I had to occasionally put the book down to prevent that. Overall, I can't say A Brief History of Montmaray was exactly my type of read because it was a sort of laid-back action; there would be rare bursts of exciting plot movement, then it settled back to a lulling description of emotions, fears, etc.
There were also a few areas that I wanted to know about, but only got a small glimpse that quickly ran away. I guess it's a good thing that I actually wanted to know more, but what would have been even better is if I actually got some more background information. Then again, I can't wait to get some information about what happens to Sophie after A Brief History of Montmaray, and it's ending was reasonably satisfying, though it wrapped a bit too quickly. I'll be looking forward to the sequel, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, which will be published in Australia in 2010.
Bottom Line: A Brief History of Montmaray was one the most historically-packed but relatable reads I've read in a long time. I definitely applaud Michelle Cooper for all the research that went into this book (which you can check out on her website), and I'm absolutely horrible at history, so while this book was a work of fiction, I still managed to learn quite a lot from it. I'd recommend this book to, yes, you history nuts out there and ones who are just looking for a diary-formatted book about an isolated girl yearning to travel beyond her visible horizons. Though it started off slow, A Brief History of Montmaray was a solid read that sped up and left me wanting more.