Posts Tagged ‘The FitzOsbornes in Exile’

Book Review: “The FitzOsbornes in Exile” by Michelle Cooper

December 13th, 2011

This time around, I was determined to end up with the real Cybils nominees, so I compiled my list and checked what the library had prior to taking my trip into Lincoln.

Either my technique was completely wrong the last time I went, or my library is better at having new YA than Middle-Grade fiction, but I ended up with a treasure trove this visit.

Which didn’t mean that I didn’t spend some time second-guessing myself once I got into The FitzOsbornes in Exile.

“I thought that all the YA I’d gotten this trip was Cybils nominees–but this can’t be a Cybils nominee, can it?”

It’s not that The FitzOsbornes in Exile is bad. In fact, it’s the sort of book I really enjoy reading. It just isn’t, well, it isn’t very literary.

The book is written as the diary of teenaged Princess Sophia FitzOsborne of Montmaray. She, her brother and sister, her cousin, and their retainer (who happens to be the illegitimate son of the late king) managed to escape to England after the Nazi takeover of Montmaray–thus the “in exile”.

Sophie is a rather ordinary girl–but the rest of the family is quite extraordinary. Her cousin, the late king’s daughter, is a strident Bluestocking and socialist whose beautiful face and figure makes her seem the perfect debutante, but whose unregulated tongue often creates trouble at dinner parties. Sophie’s brother, the new king, is a rather worthless chap who cares nothing for his studies–and nothing for the many women his aunt keeps throwing at him. Henrietta, Sophie’s little sister, is a perfect hellion, causing even the sternest governesses to pull out their hair.

The plot, I suppose, is about how the children try to get the British government to assist them in getting Montmaray back. But the plot takes back stage to the gently-moving anecdotes of crazy cooks, deranged would-be-assasins, red journalists, and nervous ladies maids.

Like I said, it’s not very literary. It is neither plot-driven nor character-driven. I’m not sure that it’s driven at all. Instead, it’s a meandering float through appeasement-happy Britain in the calm before the storm.

I enjoyed it, but it’s nothing particularly spectacular. I’m still rather surprised that it was nominated for the Cybils.

**Content Note: The young king of Montmaray is a practicing homosexual, which plays a rather significant role in the interpersonal relationships within the story. Nevertheless, there is nothing sensational or explicit about the discussion of homosexuality–or anything else–in this novel. The most “YA” part of the novel is when Sophie has tea with a newly married friend and is invited to ask whatever she wants to know. The record of the conversation is as follows: “Well! Thanks to Julia, I now know how married women avoid having babies. Suffice to say it requires a round rubber object that one has to obtain from a doctor, except doctors refuse to hand them over or even discuss the issue till immediately before one’s wedding day. The whole business sound horribly messy, not at all romantic.” So, yeah, not much on the racy front (which is a great relief to this particular reader!)**


Rating:3 Stars
Category:YA Fiction
Synopsis: A mostly-teenaged royal family attempts to interest the British government in intervening in continental affairs after the Nazis take over Montmaray.
Recommendation: A fluffy sort of novel almost reminiscent of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries, only vastly cleaner and with a bit of pre-WW2 history thrown in. A good choice for light reading.

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