Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The King's Speech by Mark Logue

Have you seen the movie with Colin Firth? Okay then. Well, that's that review done!

Okay, I'm mostly kidding. And actually, the book is a bit different from the movie, but for reasons that I can entirely understand. However, in the series of incidents, they are very close, although Geoffrey Rush certainly came off as more eccentric in the movie than Lionel Logue does in the book.

I shouldn't have to recap the book, because if you haven't run into at least a trailer for the movie, I'm not sure you'd be that interested anyway. However. This is about the speech therapist who helped Queen Elizabeth II's father overcome his stutter, starting when he was a Prince, and certainly after the surprise abdication of his brother thrust him onto the throne.

Where this differs is the urgency of the timeline. The movie makes it seem like this all happens over a fairly short period of time, perhaps without ever precisely saying so. Obviously to keep up the tension - what happens if he still stutters when he takes the coronation oath? I'm not entirely sure this "saved the monarchy," as the British monarchy had certainly survived any number of rulers with more severe issues than stuttering, but still, in an age of radio, it wouldn't have helped.

But the book makes it apparent that years and years pass between when the Prince starts going to Lionel, and when he assumes the throne. That by that point, although he still went over speeches with Lionel, he was finally fairly comfortable with public speaking. It might not have been the joy of his life, but was no longer the bane. Whereas in the movie, it's tenterhooks as to whether he'll get the oath out, or whether he'll make that fateful speech about England going to war without losing it.

I get why the movie does it, it's just interesting to get the full scope of the time period that we're actually talking about.

As for the sources, well, it's interesting. There's a great deal of taking words written on paper at absolute face value, and that is very likely because this is being written by a non-historian and family member. While I'm not saying things are being misrepresented, some look at context, and why people might phrase things in specific ways in specific documents, when you know how they may be used, by whom, and why, would be helpful. Just because it's written doesn't make it without nuance or context. Or even guarantee that it's true!

At any rate, this book is fine. It's not that exciting, it comes off as a little family-aggrandizing, but it's not a difficult read, and it does nicely explore some aspects of expat life in England at the time period, as well as some glimpses into the royal family that may or may not be entirely accurate, depending on your opinion of the sources and what they say and how they're interpreted. Again, not saying they're being used entirely wrongly, but when there were quotes, I was often struck by the wording in such a way that made me itch to get my hands on the primary sources myself.

If I were at all interested in royal history. Which I'm not. But still, for those who are, I'm sure you've already read this. If you haven't, it's pretty good. It's not going to rock anyone's world, but it's an interesting look at physical flaws and positions of power.

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