The FitzOsbornes at Warby Published 09 Oct 2012
|The FitzOsbornes at War.pdf|
|Publisher||Knopf Books for Young Readers|
Michelle Cooper completes her heart-stealing epic drama of history and romance with The FitzOsbornes at War.
Sophie FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Nazis attacked. But as war breaks out in England and around the world, nowhere is safe. Sophie fills her journal with tales of a life during wartime. Blackouts and the Blitz. Dancing in nightclubs with soliders on leave. And endlessly waiting for news of her brother Toby, whose plane was shot down over enemy territory.
But even as bombs rain down on London, hope springs up, and love blooms for this most endearing princess. And when the Allies begin to drive their way across Europe, the FitzOsbornes take heart—maybe, just maybe, there will be a way to liberate Montmaray as well.
The FitzOsbornes at War Reviews
The Fitzosbornes, royal family of that small fictional Channel island Montmaray, are back in this third and last book of the trilogy. As you may recall in Book I, A Brief History of Montmaray, the FitzOsbornes - Toby, Sophie, Henry (Henrietta), cousin Veronica and half cousin Simon - were forced by the Nazis to leave their island home and head for London.
And in Book II, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, we found them hobnobbing between London and their Aunt Charlotte's Milford Park estate in Dorset. However, there was war in the air and both Toby and Simon decided to enlist in the RAF.
All the FitzOsborne doings have been relayed to us through the journals of HRH Princess Sophia FitzOsborne and in Book III, The FitzOsbornes at War, this tradition continues.
Sophie, now 18, begins her journal appropriately enough on September 3, 1939, the day that Britain and France declare war on Germany.
With England now at war, and Toby and Simon in the RAF, Sophie and Veronica both wish to do their bit to help and even manage to convince Aunt Charlotte to let them move into a small apartment behind the larger Montmaray House in London. Veronica, who speaks fluent Spanish, gets a job in the Foreign Office, while Sophie begins working for the Ministry of Food, a job she does not consider very important to the war effort.
And so life goes on under wartime conditions, with air raids, food shortages, and eventually, bombings. All the while, Veronica travels to Spain for long periods of time to translate for high ranking officials and diplomats, and Sophie works and hangs out with friends Julia, who has volunteered to be an ambulance driver, and Kick (Kathleen Kennedy, daughter of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, sister to Jack and Ted), everything faithfully recorded by Sophie in her journal, as the war becomes the new normalcy. Sophie does occasionally still see Rupert, Julia's brother, but he is working on something top secret and doesn't have much free time. Even so, they find they are more and more attracted to each other. But then, Toby goes missing while flying a mission over France, believed to have parachuted out of his burning plane. And it is as if he vanished in thin air, there seems to be no information about him to be found anywhere.
Sophie's wartime journal covers 4 years this time, from September 3, 1939 to November 28, 1944, with one entry dated August 28, 1948. There are, of course, long periods of time elapsing between journal entries, so most are really summaries of what has been happening, which I think works better than lots of more frequent entries, less confusing to the reader.
I wrote in The FitzOsbornes in Exile that it was more of a historical novel than A Brief History on Montmaray, and I can honestly say that this third novel is even more historical the both put together. How could it not be? However, Cooper has blended fact and fiction so well, that the divide between them seems almost seamless here, yet the historical information is still quite obvious so that the reader doesn't make the mistake of believing the fictional bits really happened. Clever that. And Cooper has used historical events to help move the story along without overburdening the readers with names and dates and stuff like that.
The main characters are still believable, well-developed and sympathetic. Sophie is no longer the young innocent girl she was when we first met her in 1936, nevertheless, she still retains some of her youthful naivety, even in the face of finding true love. Veronica is still Sophie's opposite, rather more interested in the intellectual side of life than the emotional side. And Henry is still Henry, sweet, charming, always exuberant and optimistic.
Does The FitzOsbornes at War stand up to it predecessors? Yes, it most certainly does. It is a most worthy sequel to the first two books, though I am not sure it would work very well as a stand alone novel. It doesn't have quite as much wit and fun as before, but there is still enough action, adventure, danger and even love to satisfy, in fact, sometimes there are even some real nail-biting moments. And sadly, there is one spot where you might want to have some tissues handy.
And here's the rub - rather than taking my time and savoring this last FitzOsborne novel, I read it almost in one sitting. I simply couldn't wait to see what was in store for these favorite characters. Then, I got to the end and I asked myself, why did I race through this book that I had been so looking forward to reading and now I have to say good-bye to because I'd finished it and there were no more FitzOsbornes on the horizon? So if you like the FitzOsbornes as I do, try not to rush to the end.
That said, and as much as I enjoyed The FitzOsbornes at War, I did find two things that bothered me.
1- Henry! I can't say more. The problem with writing about this book is that no matter what you write, it could easily end up as an unintentional spoiler.
2- I did not like the way Toby's homosexuality was handled. It was brought to light in The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and became a non-thing in this novel. What happened???? It just vanished...
To her credit, Cooper took a page out of JK Rowling's books and included on post-war journal entry wrapping this up for the reader. Not all is a happy ending, but at least you won't wonder.
This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an E-ARC obtained from Random House through Edelweiss (and it will be available on October 9, 2012 in the US)
The FitzOsbornes at War is a wonderful personal read, but it is also so full of history that teacher's may want to supplement their WW2 classes with it, and if so, you can download an extensive Teacher's Guide from Random House Australia at http://www.randomhouse.com.au/content...
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers
3rd September 1939
I'm quite sure that, in twenty or thirty years' time, people will say about this morning, "I'll never forget where I was when I heard the news."
So begins The FitzOsbornes at War, with the news of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announcing that the country at long last is at war with Germany. Sophie FitzOsborne may be a princess, but she and the rest of her family have been in exile from their invaded homeland for two years. While the events at the end of The FitzOsbornes in Exile ended with a rousing declaration against the aggression of the Nazis, who had invaded and seized their homeland, finally England is at war. For Sophie, war is a frightening, unfathomable beast - and with her brother Toby (current King of Montmaray) and cousin Simon enlisted in the Royal Air Force, fear is an ever-present companion. At least for the first few months, nothing seems to be happening. Sophie and her cousin Veronica move to London and take up in a small flat adjacent to the grand Montmaray House, finding ways to help with the war effort - Veronica finds a position with the Foreign Affairs office, while Sophie takes a role in the Ministry of Food. When the fighting starts in earnest, food and everyday items are rationed, and bombs start falling on London, the grim reality of war sets in. And for Sophie, for her beloved family and dear friends, nothing will ever be the same.
A far cry from the engagements and parties of The FitzOsbornes in Exile, or the smaller daydreams of a girl staring out of her ruined castle on the rocky shores of A Brief History of Montmaray, The FitzOsbornes at War is a more somber, but ever more powerful book. It's an older book (Sophie is now in her twenties), but it also deals with the most grave subject matter - the crescendo of discordant war and fear to which the first two novels were building. Easily, this third and final novel is the best of the Montmaray books; the most heart-rending, the most resonant. And, as with the first two novels, The FitzOsbornes at War all hinges on voice. An epistolary series of entries, related in english to us but coded in kernetin, it is Sophie's voice that drives the Montmaray novels, and it is her voice that makes this final act so resonant and truthful. Unlike, say, Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity (which is also an epistolary novel of WWII, but far more extravagant, with characters that are spies and pilots in the thick of action and interrogation), Cooper's is a book that examines the sacrifices and horrors, the tedium and changes to everyday life endured by those in London during the Blitz and subsequent years. Through Sophie's journal entries, we see how she and Veronica prepare their flat for blackouts every night; we huddle with them as the bombs fall; we feel their keen edge of frustration and impotence as night after night they rush to the cellars to sleep, they queue for hours for a bar of soap. It's a completely different kind of story of war, a quieter one, but one that Cooper masterfully relates through Sophie's honest, engaging voice.
As a heroine, Sohpie has grown so much over the course of these three books. The childhood dreams of her journals as a sixteen year old on Montmaray feel like a whole lifetime apart from this new older, wiser protagonist. She still struggles with her feelings and relationships with her other family members, but she has grown into confidence and self-acceptance; her narrative spends less time worrying about luncheons and the schemes of Aunt Charlotte, and turns to other, deeper reflection - relationships and love, yes, but also the roles women play in the war, of her own sexuality, of her own beliefs and self-worth. It's not just Sophie that changes here, though. We also see a dramatically changed Toby - whose heartbreaking arc is a departure from the carefree charmer of the past - and a Veronica that comes to grips with her own emotions and attachments. Henry is a girl of sixteen, whose exuberance and rebellious nature remains unchecked, driving her to become expelled from school and to enlist, while Simon too becomes a much more serious and conflicted character as the war progresses. And, as this is a novel of war and struggle, not everyone makes it out alive. No one makes it out unscarred.
There are so many other characters, too - the Stanley-Rosses, the Kennedeys, and more play a vital role in this third novel. You may recognize some of the names - Billy Hartington and Kick Kennedy, for example - who actually were real figures. As with the first two books, The FitzOsbornes at War blends historical fact with fiction effortlessly. This novel, however, is far more extensive in breadth and depth of research; I'm in awe of how much research went into the writing of this book. (Don't believe it? There's an extensive author's note at the end of the book explaining which elements are fact and which are fictitious - it's a very, very long list.) Informative and thorough without being info-dumpy or preachy, accurate without being dry or boring, The FitzOsbornes at War touches on everything from wartime ration pamphlets to auxillary airforce responsibilities and stations.
What else can I say about The FitzOsbornes at War? I loved this book. I loved it because it tore out my heart as I anguished with Sophie and her dear family and friends. But I loved it more because it gently restored that same heart, injured, bruised, bleeding, but hopeful - hopeful for the future of the FitzOsbornes, for Montmaray, and for the war-battered world in the aftermath of so much horror and death. If there's one thing that The FitzOsbornes at War does, it gravely and truthfully shows that in war, there are no winners, no glorious shining victors. Everything changes for Sophie and her kin in this book, and through her frank, heartbreaking narrative, we observe the saga of a family struggling to survive in wars senseless, fickle path of destruction.
This is a cathartic conclusion to a brilliant trilogy; a tale of endurance and hope and bitter change. I dearly loved The FitzOsbornes at War, and will cherish it as one of my favorite reads in the years to come. One of my top 10 favorite novels of 2012, and a perfect, if heartbreaking, end to a truly amazing trilogy.
And I end this review with an earnest plea: if you haven't read the Montmaray books yet, please, please give Princess Sophia and her family a try. You will not regret the journey - though you may like me lose a piece of your heart to the FitzOsbornes along the way.
4.5 stars, actually. This book is, by far, the best of the trilogy. It is the most exciting, the one that most of all will keep you awake at night to read more, because you need to know what's happening to the characters, you need to know that your favourites are okay - but then again, they all are your favourites because they're all flawed and terribly lovely for one reason or another. Except for Rupert, maybe, whose only flaw is his shiness and is entirely perfect in my eyes. Okay, back to the book: there is not one single moment that'll leave you bored - not once will you look at the closed book in a moment of spare time when you normally get back to reading and think "oh, no, I'll do something else instead". Sophie's entries will keep you alway thorougly entertained - mind you, you will cry. I know I did. [spoilers removed] When certain things happened, I couldn't believe it because Sophie couldn't believe it. This book is the best written of them all. I don't know anyone who was in England during the WWII, but at times it felt like I was there myself: that's how utterly engrossing this book is. You can see Sophie growing, and it is the best feature of this book: how natural her growing is, from a girl to a woman. [spoilers removed] Her life is interesting, some of her thoughts are so deep and heartfelt you feel like hugging her. I'm really enthusiastic about this book, so, everyone, go read it!
A Quick Rundown of Random Feelings:
A) I think the first person really becomes a problem in this book, because a lot of the things I wanted to know kind of get unresolved. Especially in regards to Toby/Simon. We just get some kind of rush, threesome marriage implications and that is supposed to be that. I just wanted some kind of closure, I don't feel like I got it?
B) Also, I really enjoyed the build-up of Rupert/Sophie in FitzOsbornes in Exile, but boy did the scene where they eventually come together feel forced. Like, I had to re-read it twice because I was unsure where the hell it came from. It was honestly just SUDDENLY, RUPERT IS HERE AND I LOVE HIM!!! The potential romance was so understated and sweet in its build-up, that I was hoping its culmination would at least make sense.
C) The way the book tried to shoehorn the necessary tragedy in with Henry's death, felt really false to me. It was like Cooper knew that they all couldn't have the ridiculous happy endings the book gave them, so you know, kill the youngest one.
D) Generally, I feel like the book was trying to do too much, and fit such a big time frame in that it was weakened overall. Weirdly, like Downton Abbey season 2, it seems like that the desperate need to fit the ENTIRE war in really hampered the characterization and plot.
E) I still liked it, but after LOVING "Exile", this was definitely a huge disappointment. There were things to love, but not as much as I previously did. Shame, really.
Honestly, I could keep reading Sophie's journals forever.