Wednesday, November 28, 2012

God Save the King by Laura Purcell

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read:  November 14, 2012 

London, 1788. The calm order of Queen Charlotte’s court is shattered by screams. Her beloved husband, England’s King, has gone mad. Left alone with thirteen children and a country at war, Charlotte must fight to hold her husband’s throne in a time of revolutionary fever. But it is not just the guillotine that Charlotte fears: it is the King himself. Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no Prince wants the daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it – with devastating consequences. The moving true story of George III’s madness and the women whose lives it destroyed.

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Rococo by Nikelena
Used With Permission of the Artist
Stateside we really don't learn a lot about George III. If anything he is a vague shadowy figure from our high school history books, the king who lost America, though to be completely honest I'm not sure too many people could tell you even that much off the cuff. Personally I've read histories of the American Revolution and have dim recollections of the 1994 film starring Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren, but such shoddy and shallow background material could hardly be considered adequate preparation for the story that unfolded under Purcell's pen in Gad Save the King.

Generally speaking, I really liked this piece. The exploration of George's condition and how it stigmatized his family both publicly and privately made quite the emotional backdrop for the story of three tenacious women, each struggling to grasp a fragile vestige of love and affection in a world literally gone mad. Not to negate the trials of her daughters, but Charlotte's experiences in particular struck a chord with me. Often overlooked by history, you cannot help but wonder at this woman; how she dealt with the mental deterioration of her spouse, the premature deaths of several of her loved ones, how she navigated the tangled relationships of those family members that survived and how she balanced all of this against her duties as Queen of England.  

If I rated on content alone, I'd be all in, five stars, two thumbs way way up, the whole deal, but I don't. I'm one of those nitpicky readers who has a lot of trouble accepting the mechanics of a book. For example, I love alternating points of view, just not here. God Save the King is told from the varied perspectives of Queen Charlotte, Princess Charlotte (known as Royal to limit confusion) and Princess Sophia. Usually I have no problem with this format, but I found the beginning of the book focused heavily on Charlotte and Royal which, for me, made it difficult to accept Sophia later on. Additionally I felt at times the three voices struck the same note and began to run together. Ideally I would have liked to see more distinction between narrators as well as a more even distribution of face time with the reader. 

Do I recommend the piece? Yes, wholeheartedly. Purcell is a promising new author who has channeled her obvious love for the Georgian era and the Hanoverians into a compelling piece of fiction. A few hiccups here and there, but nothing time and experience can't remedy. Will definitely be on the lookout for her work in the future. 

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There is no chance the King will consent to his daughter marrying into such lineage. For Augusta and the rest of them, the never ending waltz between Kew, London, and Windsor will continue. Their lives will keep their feet trained to the same continuous cycle...
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