A read Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray what feels like a million years ago, but was more likely sometime in 2009. Obviously I bought it because the cover was so pretty and really evoked what was the ultimate feel of the novel. It feels like I read this book a million years ago because it was one of those books that I just loved so much that it sort of crept onto my list of Those Books. The books you recommend to everyone. The books that you clutch to your chest and hope to share with your future kids. The kind of book that reminds you of the spirit of one of your all time favorites and captures that same magic for you (for this book it was I Capture the Castle). If I’d had a blog way back when, I’d have gushed about it. But I didn’t. And I’ve been busy. So my gushing has been forestalled to…now.
A Brief History of Montmaray tells the story of Sophie Fitzosborne and her family. They live on the tiny island of Montmaray and, though they’re poorer than dirt, they also happen be the island’s royal family. A Brief History is told through Sophie’s diary as she chronicles the events of the island. In 1936. When this little thing called World War II was gearing up but before anyone really knew what the heck was going on. Montmaray has always been isolated, but now Sophie and her eccentric clan are thrust into the middle of something bigger than the tiny island could have ever imagined.
This book was magic. All of the characters, the plot, the writing, the pace…they all blended seamlessly to come together in the form of a suspenseful and moving book. I think the fact that this was written like a diary is what really reminded me of I Capture the Castle. The eccentric family in the rundown castle are similar, but it was the gorgeous voice of first Cassandra and then Sophie that spoke to me. Now, aside from the very basic premise mentioned above, the two books aren’t really alike at all. But, as I said, they had that same kind of magic. And reading Sophie’s words felt like magic for me. Her words were vivid, and I found myself feeling like I was trapped on this island with her.
Sophie was an amazing lead. Strong and independent but still young and unsure. Stuck on this tiny island which at times felt like a prison but was always, always home. I held my breath as she found out about the things happening on the island. I wanted to hug her through some of the darker times. I wanted to curl up in the castle and laugh with her too. Sophie is the kind of character you want to share with young girls everywhere, because she’s feisty and independent but still down to earth and pretty wholesome. Sure, it’s 1936, but I can appreciate that about her. And the fact that she wasn’t the only smart, capable girl in the book was refreshing.
The plot of this book was so well done. The pace was perfect, which is hard to do when it’s told through a diary form that kind of has to happen AFTER things have happened. But this was, underneath the coming-of-age feeling of the book, a war novel as well. My heart pounded in the later chapters and I clutched my chest (actually clutched it, y’all) in parts. And when I got to the end and it was the end? Heartbroken that there was no more.
Funnily enough, I actually had no idea that this book even had a sequel, The Fitzosbornes in Exile until right when that book was about to be released. I haven’t read the sequel yet because none of my local bookstores have had it in stock. But as soon as I can get it in my hot little hands you better believe I’ll be plowing through it.
A Brief History of Montmaray was a refreshingly smart book that had the timeless magic so many books now are missing. I can’t recommend it enough, and I can’t wait to read more about Sophie and her crazy clan.