Book Review: The King’s War, by Peter Conradi and Mark Logue

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_kings_war.jpgThe recent visit to New Zealand by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has rekindled the nation’s interest in things royal. This fascination has created images and articles across the years. When there is an Antipodean link, we become even more engrossed. Here is a book to nurture your curiosity on the part played by Lionel Logue.

Movie The King’s Speech, was released in 2010. It told the story of Lionel Logue, the Australian born therapist who worked with King George 6th on his acceptance speech. The King had a stutter which was never cured, but ably managed to allow him to address the public on countless occasions. Following the movie, the story was written by Peter Conradi, a Sunday Times journalist and Mark Logue, Grandson of Lionel. Both the movie and the book were a great success.

The King’s War is an opportunity for this established writing pair, to delve deeper into the story using material uncovered during the making of the movie. Mark inherited four large scrapbooks of information and personal family diaries and letters. This includes correspondence from the King to Lionel from 1926 when they first met, until 1952 when the King died. While the movie reaches a climax with the Coronation speech, this book looks at the growing relationship between Lionel and the King. As well as the letters, much of the information comes from the diaries kept by Lionel’s wife, Myrtle. These record the details of living in London during the war.

The actual book is an historical account of the Second World War and the events which impact on the Royal household, but also on the lives of those living through the Blitz, Dunkirk, the American support and finally peace. I liked the parallel between Logue’s involvement in every major event as he was called in to support and prepare the King for his public appearances, and the detail of family life for the Logue’s and their children, following these speeches.

It was not until after the death of George VI in 1952, that the role played by Logue became public. His was a private task and he always took care to respect this aspect of his work. While Logue had no academic qualifications, his skill in amateur dramatics enabled him to work successfully from his rooms in Harley St.

I enjoyed learning more about the warmth of the relationship between the King and Lionel. This book fills in all the gaps left by the earlier story, The King’s Speech. It is a story of an unusual relationship which we might have missed, but for Mark Logue’s desire to honour his grandfather, Lionel.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The King’s War
By Peter Conradi and Mark Logue
Published by Quercus Publishing
ISBN 9781782065975

Book Review: The Revelations of Carey Ravine, by Debra Daley

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_revelations_of_carey_ravineCarey Ravine appears to have it all. She’s living a happily decadent life in 1770s London with her husband, the charming Oliver Nash. Life is all about parties in stately homes, gorgeous dresses, and sleeping till noon.

Appearances, of course, can be deceiving. Carey’s past is not as innocent as she likes to pretend. She has secrets, not least a father who disappeared into the depths of the Indian jungle. In her efforts to keep her own skeletons firmly in the closet, she has been wilfully blind to her husband’s own secrets, too eager to take at face value all the lies that he has told her. And the Nashes are quickly running short of funds, with creditors lurking at the door.

Carey is a most frustrating young woman. She’s like that naively sweet friend who you suspect is being led on a merry dance by a rotten boyfriend but who is stubbornly incapable of hearing the truth. The reader begins to harbour suspicions about Nash’s true character long before Carey begins to question his shady past. Ultimately a visit from a mysterious stranger leads Carey to commence unraveling the web of lies, leading to a series of revelations about the men in her past and her present.

If you’re among the many lamenting the recent findings that New Zealanders don’t read much local fiction, then this is a great book for you to add to your To Read list. Although the novel is set in London’s high society and the jungles of India, Daley is herself a Kiwi writer, living in the Bay of Plenty.

The Revelations of Carey Ravine is a most entertaining and surprisingly dark glimpse into 18th century London’s secret societies, with a party scene to rival any soiree that Jay Gatsby ever hosted.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

The Revelations of Carey Ravine
by Debra Daley
Published by Quercus
ISBN 9781782069942

 

Book Review: Florence Grace, by Tracy Rees

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_florence_graceChanges have to happen throughout the years, as we grow we must change, sometimes drastically. For many though, the most drastic transition is that from a carefree youngster to whatever we, or our environment, decides we will be. This particular transition is a story that has been told or written about many times and in many different ways.

Florence Grace is one such tale. Florence ‘Florrie’ Buckley is that carefree and spirited youngster, growing up in the harsh but beautiful Cornish moors during the mid 1800s, content, yet longing for something more. All at once, her world is turned upside down when a never-imagined secret becomes hers, and she is plucked from the home she loves and thrust into a life starkly different. Florence Grace is as much a story of survival as it is a coming of age tale. Trials and tribulations are frequent, secrets kept and then revealed, causing strife in Florrie’s new world. It did portray the realness of life; as much as it seemed from the outside that Florence Grace had the best chances in the world and that life was being kind to her, it didn’t always bring about favourable circumstances.

Florrie encounters many crossroads during the story, forcing her to make decisions about who she will become and what she really wants. These twists and turns meant that the novel was interesting and unique, drawing you in and I found that at times I struggled to put the book down. These aspects of the novel and also the captivating detail throughout, particularly about Cornwall, gave depth to the story and for me, made it feel as though I was living it too.

That being said, I did find the novel somewhat predictable. The writing style did impress me but it was easy to see the outcomes, perhaps because of it being a frequently-told story-line of growing up. I enjoyed Florence Grace, I just wish the plot surprised me a bit more. There were also a few additions or details that, in my opinion, distracted from the story. Things that didn’t get majorly expanded on, didn’t add anything valuable to the story, and that seemed to detract from the ‘realness’ of the novel.

However Tracy Rees did manage to get across what I believe she wanted to portray: a beautiful story of lows and highs, struggles and victories, losses and loves of a young girl finding her way in the world, as well as finding herself.

Reviewed by Sarah Hayward

Florence Grace
by Tracy Rees
Published by Quercus Publishing
9781784296193

Book Review: Fall of man in Wilmslow, by David Lagercrantz

Available in bookstores nationwide.

This is a novel about the death, and life, of Alan Turing. It’s been well translated from thecv_fall_of_man_in_wilmslow original Swedish and it’s quite an engaging read.

At first I was a bit offput by the tone – the early chapters reflect the homophobic feelings which abounded at the time – but I persevered as I considered that there must be more than that, and there is.

Essentially it’s a detective story – the young Oxbridge-educated detective constable Leonard Corell who is to investigate the apparent suicide of Turing finds himself fascinated by the Enigma connections, and his own abilities in maths and logic serve him well as he becomes involved in more than just the case.

There’s a great deal about Bletchley Park, Enigma, and the cold war, and if you have seen or read The Imitation Game or Enigma you’ll find it very familiar territory. That said, it’s well-enough written to hold your attention even if you know the story.

Fall of man in Wilmslow
by David Lagercrantz
Published by Quercus Publishing
ISBN 9781848668911
(Distributed by Hachette)

Book Review: The Tears of Dark Water, by Corban Addison

Available in bookstores nationwide.

cv_the_tears_of_dark_waterThis is great story telling. A riveting story of modern day piracy, a clash of cultures, people’s lives torn apart. The quality of the writing is not so great, and for that reason many will consider it not much better than an airport or pool side read, but in terms of being a page turner, it is right up there. It also raises a large number of issues that have become so much a part of our daily news – terrorism, piracy in the Indian Ocean, the might of the US government vs everybody else. As well as intangibles such as the basic human needs of justice and truth, the bonds of family, religion, and simple human decency.

Daniel Parker, a successful lawyer, and his 17-year-old son Quentin are most of the way through a world sailing trip on the family yacht Renaissance. Wife/mother Vanessa continues to live at their home in Washington DC, working as a doctor in the practice she founded. Quentin has not given his parents an easy ride through the teenage years, and this trip is an attempt by Daniel to re-bond with his son. The relationship between Daniel and Vanessa has also been sorely tested over the previous few years. The trip, so far, has been a fantastic success, with the Renaissance now off the coast of Somalia. So you already know what is going to happen next. A band of pirates, led by the young Ismail, hijacks the yacht and its two sailors. Isamil is a highly intelligent young man, in his short life having lived through violence and murder, been kidnapped himself and seen his family and life as he knew it torn apart. He has a sister, Yasmin, who has disappeared, her only link to the outside world a mobile phone she has managed to keep secret from those around her.

As news of the hijack leaks out in the US, the Navy, the Seals, and a hostage negotiator, Paul Derrick, are deployed to do their part in the rescue of Daniel and Quentin, as well as the apprehension of the seven hostage takers. Being a novel, things do not go to plan. About half way through the book, things take a decidedly interesting turn, with everyone out to protect and save themselves – the Navy, the Seals, the Parker family, Paul, Ismail and Yasmin. How these diverse elements and characters come together is gripping and very well done, if at times a little melodramatic in the telling. But, as I said earlier, the quality of the writing is surpassed by the quality of the story and the people who fill it.

So it is much more than an airport book shop read with a big glossy cover and author’s name in large letters. And at the end of it all, there is a serious message – we do actually have to learn to get on with our fellow human being, to understand them and their pasts, not just their immediate pasts but where they have come from. So the book isn’t really about Somalians hijacking foreign vessels, and the author makes this point in his notes. Piracy is his narrative framework for looking at the much bigger issue of the breakdown of Somalia over the past twenty years or so, and the lawlessness that has resulted from the ongoing civil war. It is tragic, and hardly surprising that the problems spill over into the Western world – after all Somalians really do have nothing to lose by taking the law into their own hands.

The author’s starting point for this novel was the 2011 hijack of a US flagged sailing boat, the Quest, in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates. HIs ‘research odyssey’ as he calls it includes visiting Somalia, getting to know the people there, interviews with many US government officials, an FBI hostage negotiator, learning how to sail, staying on an aircraft carrier, going to the trial of the Quest hostage takers – immersing himself in these strange and different worlds. The result is this excellent story, well worth the effort. Part of his dedication at the beginning of the book is “For the jewel of the Indian Ocean, may you rise again”. And after finishing this book, you too may well hope for such an outcome.

Reviewed by Felicity Murray

The Tears of Dark Water
by Corban Addison
Published by Quercus Publishing Plc
ISBN 9781848663114