It’s hard to resist a great British family story. Those types of stories make me want to curl up on the couch, tuck my legs under a blanket, grab my cat, and read for hours. I may have actually hooted when The FitzOsbornes in Exile arrived at the library for me after so long I’d forgotten about it completely (love it when that happens!). Michelle Cooper’s first book in The Montmaray Journals, A Brief History of Montmaray, was wonderful. It swept me up. The narrator, Sophie, had such a believable and engaging voice that she came to life for me completely. I loved discovering that book because when I read it, I knew instantly that it was a book I would have adored when I was about fifteen. This made me savor it all the more. I had high hopes for the second title in the series. I think the second one is even stronger than the first.
In The FitzOsbornes in Exile, Sophie and the rest of the royal family have had to flee to England to live with their aunt after the dramatic Nazi invasion of Montmoray. Sophie is both terribly homesick and a little thrilled to be in London. She and her cousin Veronica are expected to make their debut in society, and it seems like nothing is destined to work out properly. Her little sister Henry is wreaking havoc and refusing to submit to a governess. Toby is still not buckling down at school or acting anything like the King of Montmaray. Veronica is getting caught up in politics, making enemies, and generally behaving in a very unladylike manner. Will they ever find a way back to their beloved home? I’m not telling because there’s too much pleasure in the journey for me to spoil it for you.
The family dynamic is brilliant here again, as it was in the first book. There’s just the right balance between love and frustration as the siblings struggle to find some kind of comfort in this new situation. It works well how the unsettled position of the family mirrors the events unfolding in the larger political arena. Cooper succeeds in creating a book that is serious and sad in places and then is funny and charming in others. I think she’s able to manage it because of the eccentric cast of characters. They are memorable and complex. A wholly satisfying read. Lucky you if you haven’t read the first one yet. Find a couch and a cat and an afternoon and get started!
The FitzOsbornes in Exile is published by Knopf.