Friday, January 23, 2015

Review - Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bendall Smith

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
Genre: Biography 
Kindle - 668pgs
Published by Random House
Source: Library Overdrive
Add it // Buy it 
Rating: 3/5 

From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do we really know the world’s most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in intimate detail the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who has led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last sixty years with unparalleled composure, intelligence, and grace. 

In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes “heiress presumptive” when her uncle abdicates the throne. We meet the thirteen-year-old Lilibet as she falls in love with a young navy cadet named Philip and becomes determined to marry him, even though her parents prefer wealthier English aristocrats. We see the teenage Lilibet repairing army trucks during World War II and standing with Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on V-E Day. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children. Sally Bedell Smith brings us inside the palace doors and into the Queen’s daily routines—the “red boxes” of documents she reviews each day, the weekly meetings she has had with twelve prime ministers, her physically demanding tours abroad, and the constant scrutiny of the press—as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life; her children and their often-disastrous marriages; her grandchildren and friends.

Anything related to the British Isles interests me so when I started my Expanding Reading Horizons project, I started hunting a biography. This was quite a different book than what I normally read and it took me a few chapters to get back into the swing of non-fiction reading. Honestly I haven't picked up much non-fiction since college. It was very readable and the language wasn't difficult to follow which made this an easy read.

Even though it was interesting with a lot of information about the Queen and the Royal Family, I thought it was lacking in a few areas. I found the first half really interesting. This section includes a lot of information about Elizabeth's early life, her marriage to Phillip and her first two decades as queen. For me this section was filled with new information and a great mix of political, social and personal information. I thought this section kept moving with a nice variety of topics and covered the events of the Queen's life with good depth.

As we moved closer to present day, I thought the author's personal opinions became more apparent and her writing had to be taken with a larger grain of salt. Especially her portrayal of Diana seemed harsh and villainous. I also thought the sections on the Jubilees dragged a lot. They were heavy on the description, but low on interest for me. You could really tell which Prime Ministers the author liked and which she didn't as well.

Overall I think this book was an interesting introduction to the life of Queen Elizabeth and told me a lot of things I didn't know before. I would recommend it, but really be aware of the author's biases throughout the book so you aren't swayed too easily.

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