Summary - 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.
Review - A Brief History of Montmaray is a like a fantastic soup -a hearty stock, warm and dense, clean flavours and a overwhelming feeling on satisfaction when you're done.
Told through the diary entries of Sophie, we see her amazing shambles of a home through her unaffected and self confessed, subjective eyes. I really liked Sophie, she's completely lacking of specialness (in her own eyes anyway) and yet undergoes this completely natural progression in maturity throughout the book's pages.
Each character is extremely well formed, their motivations clear, personalities strong and unique. Even the castle (sorry, I meant reinforced house) has a distinct presence that permeates the story. I could see Cooper's imagined world in my head; I tiptoed over the rickety drawbridge and plonked chamberpots under the roof leaks. The world of Montmaray was startlingly real.
To continue with the soup metaphor, reading this books is like ladling huge, delightful spoonfuls of character, intrigue, romance and action into your brain. I learned more about history, literature and the human condition in three hundred pages than I have in quite awhile (please don't judge me). Cooper has managed to weave The Great War, sexuality, mental illness, abandonment, familial responsibility and murder into Sophie's ramblings without it ever feeling contrived. To say that I am keen to read the continuing stories of the family would be an understatement.
While I wouldn't call myself a romantic or an adventurer, A Brief History of Montmaray definitely appealed to those long buried (perhaps non existent) qualities in me. A great read and a worthy winner of the Ethel Turner Prize.
Published: June 2008
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Publisher: Random House
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