Belinda Reviews: 'A Brief History of Montmaray' — Michelle Cooper

I can remember as a teen, my resolution every new year’s eve was to keep a journal. To be disciplined enough to write in it every day, and, as with most resolutions, it never really worked out.

Fortunately for us, Michelle Cooper has written the main protagonist in the Montmaray journals, Princess Sophia Margaret Elizabeth Jane Clemintine FitzOsborne, as a dedicated journal writer.

Who’d have thought an isolated island, in such an inhospitable place, could be the setting for a completely absorbing story with such a charming set of characters. Though it’s a fictional story, it is intricately interwoven with factual historical events, elaborately enough to make you want to go Google crazy, though not smothering enough to make you put the book down.

We’re shown a very young, innocent, and naïve Princess Sophia, growing up with her family on the Island Kingdom of Montmaray. It’s 1936 and the Spanish war is in full swing. The family is financially supported by Aunt Charlotte, who resides in England, and there is talk of shipping Sophia and cousin Victoria off to live with their Aunt to be debuted in high society.

Victoria would rather curl up with her history books in the library than go through the motions of trying to land a rich, titled husband, and Sophia is hesitant to leave the place she’s always called home.

This book is beautifully written and Sophia’s voice is so resonant, I really wish it were a work of Non-Fiction. Michelle has done a brilliant job of capturing how I imagine a young woman would see the world in that politically volatile era.

I am extremely grateful that women have come a long way since then. The mere thought of being seen as nothing better than a prized pet would make me furious. Expected to be seen and not heard, to have no place in politics, to be excluded from any major decision making processes, and to not be allowed to have a formal education let alone vote. Wow, just reading those parts in the book was enough to make the steam come out my ears on behalf of every woman who was treated that way in history.

Thank goodness there were trail blazing women who ignored the critics, and worked to build the foundations of the equality we enjoy today. If those women didn’t do what they did, people like Michelle may never have been given the chance to enchant us with the journal of Princess Sophia of Montmaray.

Book two in the series is ‘The FitzOsbornes in Exile’. There’ll be a review of that book in the coming weeks.

A Brief History of Montmaray – Michelle Cooper

June 2nd, 2008 by Random House Australia

Paperback 304 pages

ISBN: 9781741663228

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