Sunday, April 15, 2012

Books Are Our Friends

 I know I am not the only one who experiences something in life, and thinks, "Oh, this is just like when so and so in such and such book did this.."  Good books are not over when the last page has been read; good characters last despite the ending of a series.  I am often reminded of Nick Carraway watching that light and thinking of Gatsby's life...beating against the current.  Aren't we all in some way or another?  Good books are going to capture those moments that are ubiquitous and real.  I am often borne back into the past, even if it isn't the way to move on in life.  I just can't help it. 

Life is challenging right now, even more so than usual for me.  I have some tough realities to face, but face them I must.  I have lots of family and friends to get me through, and I am so very grateful for that.  I also have books, and I know I will bring them with me into any challenge.  I wonder how much I will think of Michelle Cooper's Montmaray Journals series when I think back to this period of time in my life.  It is very apropos, to be sure, for anyone who has grown and changed, loved and loss, looked back and looked forward.  Sophie's story is not unique in theme.  Despite a made-up country, her story is anyone's.   I love this series, and the characters have always felt more like friends to me than like fictional characters.  The Montmaray Journal, The Fitzosbornes in Exile, and The Fitzosbornes at War are books in a series that is overshadowed by showier, more dramatic series.  The writing, characterization and development in this series is far superior to that of many other series.  I hope the general public discovers them.

I have a happy memory of when my kids were little and we first moved into the house where we live now, but won't be for much longer.  The boys were 5 and three, and they ran across the yard to a fence that separated our property from the neighbor's.  I had been afraid that we would not like living so close to others, that this new house wouldn't suit our needs.  But as I watched them race across the grass and climb the white fence, my fears were put to rest.  I remember it along with the end of the final book about the Fitzosbornes, as Sophie remembers her sister Henry racing along the beach, her beloved dog at her side.  "That is just like when the boys ran to the fence,"  I thought.  Good books last like good memories. 

My NetGalley review is below.

Michelle Cooper's third and final installment in the Montmaray Journals series is a much more mature and sophisticated book than the previous two.  It is to be expected, however.  In The FitzOsbornes at War, Sophie, Veronica, Toby, Henry and Simon grow considerably since they were introduced to us in the first book, with years passing and wars brewing.  Not only have the Fitzosbornes aged, but they have faced grim realities:  the occupation of Montmaray by Nazis, the rationing of food and supplies, the bombing of London, and the entanglement in a war by all ages and genders.  Toby and Simon join the RAF, Henry becomes a WREN, Veronica works as a translator, and Sophie writes propaganda for the British Food office.  Even Aunt Charlotte does her part for the war effort, trying to outdo her rival Lady  Bosworth in monies collected for charities.  The books spans the five long years of WWII, and is again told in the form of Sophie's journal entries, letters and articles.  The naive Sophie has a much wiser voice in this final book, but she stays true to character, and is an excellent storyteller.  Readers will weep with the FitzOsbornes as they experience loss, and rejoice as they reach victory.  Cooper does not spare the family from the war; readers should be ready for a realistic look at how it changes people and places forever.  Each member of the royal family will be altered in some way while fighting the war and finding the way to return to the beloved island of Montmaray.  Cooper's final book in the series is a satisfying ending to a story full of characters who are more like friends, and a plot that will last in memory.   Readers who have faithfully followed this underappreciated series will remember Sophie, Veronica, and the others and think, "I wonder what she is doing now?''  Well-crafted, this final book is a victory for Cooper and a must-read for fans.  

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