Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: The Queen

Matthew Dennison
Expected publication date: September 1, 2021
Monarchy in Britain is a mindset – sociological and emotional – seldom scrutinised save by diehard supporters or detractors.

Matthew Dennison's new biography of Elizabeth II offers to evaluate a magisterial reign now spanning seven decades and the Queen’s record as practitioner of monarchy. The person of the monarch is the closest an ethnically and culturally diverse society comes to a visible representative of past, present and future, although population changes since 1945 have made it impossible for Elizabeth II convincingly to embody the wide-ranging outlooks and aspirations of a muddled demographic. Instead she is understood as the champion of a handful of ‘British’ values endorsed – if no longer practised – by the bulk of the nation: service, duty, steadfastness, charity, stoicism: a visible definition of an aspect of ‘Britishness’. - from Goodreads
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

In The Queen, Matthew Dennison offers a comprehensive biography of Queen Elizabeth II, from her birth to the current coronavirus pandemic, and shows how her strong values have influenced her reign.  Although it's not a perfect book, there is a lot to enjoy about this biography.

Cons:  The writing is very dense.  Long sentences in even longer paragraphs, coupled with a formal writing style, sometimes made it a bit difficult to get through at times.  Although Dennison includes many interesting details, I didn't need to know about every portrait that the Queen has sat for in her life.  Also, maybe it's just my bias and being interested in the events that have taken place during my lifetime, but it felt like the last 40 years or so were kind of rushed through.  There is quite a bit about Princess Diana, but I wanted more detail and analysis of how major social, technological, and family changes have affected her reign in more recent years.

Pros:  Dennison isn't afraid of including the good and the bad.  This isn't a glowing biography that glosses over criticism, but rather a balanced look at the Queen's life.  He discusses times when the Queen seemed out of touch with the general public and how her duties as monarch sometimes got in the way of being a more present mother.  Dennison's research is impressive, and he includes many quotes that really added to the narrative.  I think Dennison also did a great job showing time and again how the Queen's life has been shaped and guided by tradition and values.  From a young age, she learned the importance of duty, and when it came time for her to be Queen, she brought a sense of honor and desire to serve her people as monarchs before her had done, even if these notions made her seem somewhat old-fashioned and sometimes detached.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful overview of the astounding life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, a must-read for any royal fan.

4 stars

10 comments:

  1. I bet this was super interesting (even if a bit too dense at times). I definitely see the monarchy changing after Elizabeth. She seems to be among the last of the "old-school" monarchy that truly always put duty ahead of everything else.

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    1. Oh, definitely - I think the younger members of the family have more of an interest in change and modernization.

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  2. I can understand how the long sentence, paragraphs and formal writing style would make it difficult to make through it. I think I'd have a problem with that as well. Are the chapters long too?

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  3. I think a good biography does show the good, the bad, and the ugly. I commend the author for being honest. Dense writing is such a turn-off for me. I hate working that hard. I did that in school.

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    1. Yes, agreed! Even if it it's nonfiction, I still need it to be engaging.

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  4. This sounds really interesting and I've always wanted to know more about the Quuen. I wonder if an audio version would make it easier to get through the dense writing.

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    1. Hmm, I wonder! It might make it easier to hear someone reading it, but there are also a lot of quotes, and you might lose the emphasis of those.

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  5. The cons are daunting, I must admit -- but it's a big tick for me that he does the good and the bad.

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    1. Yeah, it's always nice to see some balance!

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