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Two Stars for THE FITZOSBORNES AT WAR

November 02, 2012

★ War has been declared, and the young, royal, exiled FitzOsbornes are immediately in the thick of things as Cooper’s Montmaray Journals trilogy comes to its conclusion.

Their island kingdom of Montmaray was captured by the Nazis several years earlier, and they have been living in London ever since. Teenagers at the start of the war, they are flung headlong into adulthood; Simon and King Toby are in the Royal Air Force, Princess Veronica does something secret in the Foreign Office, and Princess Sophie works in the Food Ministry, where she churns out information regarding rationing. It is her voice, as true and clear as ever in her long-running journal, that paints a detailed and nuanced portrait of life in the madness of war, with its deprivations, bombings and disruptions; devastating damage to life, property and spirit; constant fear, heartbreaking loss and brief moments of giddy laughter. The family is foremost in the narrative, but the wider cast of characters includes Churchill, the Kennedys and several other historical figures. Seamlessly weaving fiction with fact, Cooper makes it all personal. Modern readers, whether or not they know more than a few basic facts about that era, will be completely caught up in Sophie’s nightmare and will gain an understanding that only the best historical fiction can provide. (Readers are advised not to peek at the family tree, as it contains spoilers.)

Absorbing, compelling and unforgettable. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up) – Kirkus Reviews

 

★ In this satisfying conclusion to the Montmaray Journals (A Brief History of Montmaray, 2009, and The FitzOsbornes in Exile, 2011), the surviving royals continue their exile in Britain during the war years 1939–44. King Toby and Simon are serving in the RAF; Sophie and Veronica train as secretaries (but end up acting as unofficial intelligence agents); and tomboy Henrietta is forced to attend boarding school. As always, Sophie’s journals provide readers with a fascinating view of wartime Britain. She notes rationing that affected even the affluent, overnights spent in damp air raid shelters, and the expectation that everyone—even the wealthy—will do their part. Private musings observe worries about friends and family serving (and dying) on the front, a grief-fueled sexual encounter with cousin Simon, and her uncovering of the true circumstances surrounding Toby’s disappearance in Belgium. The use of real characters (including U.S. Ambassador Kennedy and his children) is skillfully integrated into the story adding insight into complicated wartime views of fascism and socialism. Appended with an author’s note separating the facts from the fictions, this makes a perfect choice for teen devotees of Downton Abbey and other period dramas. – Booklist