Do you remember January and December last year? When we sort of did a feature called ’tis the Season of Rereading and reread books and talked about them? Like Artemis Fowl and Scarlet? Even if you don’t remember, we’re resurrecting that feature, and today I’m talking about one of my favourite books EVER: The FitzOsbornes in Exile.
First of all, to recount my previous readings. So I last read this in January, when I had a dream about it. When I dream about books it makes me want to read them, so I read it and it was fabulous. Before that it was in late October 2014, when I was using it to study for a history exam (or at least, that was my excuse. ) I read the entire series then. Before that, it was May 2014 (and I only know this because of library records) And I had read it at least once from the digital library beforehand. So we’re talking 4-5 times, counting this one.
The thing about rereading is that it means you don’t read it for the plot. I don’t think I’ve ever tried- but don’t you think rereading a mystery novel would be unrewarding when you already know what’s going to happen? So I didn’t read the FitzOsbornes in Exile for the book. I read it for the fabulously evoked setting and characters. This post will contain spoilers for the first book in the sense that I’m going to mention who lives or dies and who’s insane, but I’m not going to bring up the major plot point of A Brief History of Montmaray that led to the FitzOsbornes being in England.
The characters are highly fabulous. There’s
+Sophia: She’s the writer of the journal that is the book. She’s quiet and clever and a little bit tired of high Society. She’s kind and thoughtful and good at preventing arguments. She loves to read. She’s awesome pretty much. Through the books she gets much more confident and assured and knows herself more, which is a good journey to watch.
+Veronica: This is Sophie’s cousin. She’s pretty but uninterested in her looks. She loves history and is very fierce and passionate about justice. She is quite depressed at the start of the novel, but becomes more determined and assured, and delivers a pivotal speech to a large group of people.
+Toby: He’s really interesting. He’s a hopeless flirt, but is also hopelessly in love with Simon. (Isn’t it great that this book shows historically people of different sexualities?) He isn’t studious, and can be quite miserable as well.
+Simon: He becomes very involved with the FitzOsbornes for various reasons. Social status is important to him, but he’s also kind and hardworking, and he gets better at working with the other FitzOsbornes.
There’s a lot of character development in this book, because everything has changed for the FitzOsbornes since they’ve been forced to leave their home. They also make new friends in the Wittighams, and get to know each other better. The amazingly written characters are on of the things I love. I also like Aunt Charlotte- of course she has problems but she’s also really loving and does her best, as well as providing comic relief (along with Henry)
I also love the setting. It’s meticulously researched, and incorporates real people and real history so well into the story of Montmaray. (in case you didn’t pick up: Montmaray is a tiny island between Spain and England, sovereign for 500 years, most of the population left after all of the men were killed in WWII and the FitzOsbornes are the somewhat impoverished and now homeless Royal family, with Toby as the reluctant king and it’s 1938 at the start of the book) The research was done so well- it had actual headlines from newspapers at the time, and I felt like I knew those people, like I was there. Which is testament to Michelle Coopers excellent writing really. I see the ballgowns and hear the frustration in Veronica’s voice and feel a little bit sorry for Daniel and determined to get Montmaray back and Julia why did you do this and that dialogue made me cry and… I get the feels, pretty much.
I don’t want to spoil, but the story is as interesting as the first time reading it was well as teaching actual history.
Why do I come back to this book? What makes it worth rereading? Because I read many excellent historical novels, but there are very few that I reread as often as I have this one. I think it’s because of a lot of things- partially the amazing setting, the fascinating history, the vivid characters, the constantly moving plot, the excellent dialogue… all the things that make a book good. But I love the FitzOsbornes in Exile for more than that. I love it because it makes the pain and frustration and delight of the people who lived in history real in a way that textbooks can’t. And that is very special (and cheesy, let’s be honest here)
Are there any books that you could reread a hundred times? Do you love historical fiction? Are you going to read the Montmaray Journals now? tell me in the comments!