Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review - Elizabeth The Queen by Sally Bedell Smith

As the UK salutes it's beloved Queen today with the spectacular flotilla down the Thames, I salute her with a review of one of the most fascinating biographies I've read in a long while - "Elizabeth The Queen," by Sally Bedell Smith.

About the Book:

In this magisterial new biography, New York Times bestselling author Sally Bedell Smith brings to life one of the world’s most fascinating and enigmatic women: Queen Elizabeth II.

From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do we really know the world’s most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in intimate detail the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who has led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last sixty years with unparalleled composure, intelligence, and grace.

 In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes “heiress presumptive” when her uncle abdicates the throne. We meet the thirteen-year-old Lilibet as she falls in love with a young navy cadet named Philip and becomes determined to marry him, even though her parents prefer wealthier English aristocrats. We see the teenage Lilibet repairing army trucks during World War II and standing with Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on V-E Day. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children.

Sally Bedell Smith brings us inside the palace doors and into the Queen’s daily routines—the “red boxes” of documents she reviews each day, the weekly meetings she has had with twelve prime ministers, her physically demanding tours abroad, and the constant scrutiny of the press—as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life; her children and their often-disastrous marriages; her grandchildren and friends.

Compulsively readable and scrupulously researched, Elizabeth the Queen is a close-up view of a woman we’ve known only from a distance, illuminating the lively personality, sense of humor, and canny intelligence with which she meets the most demanding work and family obligations. It is also a fascinating window into life at the center of the last great monarchy.

I was absolutely entralled with this book.  It's huge - at 663 pages, including 118 pages of footnotes and bibliography, it's a handful. (my poor thumb may never be the same from holding this whopper!) But it is a book filled to the brim with wonderful information about Queen Elizabeth II, from her birth to the present.

As this is an unauthorized biography (there will be no "official" biographies of the Queen until after her death), Smith nevertheless has had access to many of the Queen's friends, employees, and others, plus access to tons of information to pull together a comprehensive look at the lady who has been the head of the British monarchy for 60 years.

There are plenty of photos included here, both black-and-white and color, which always adds a special touch to any bio.  And plenty of little details that make this a very personable and easily read book indeed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the monarchy, the Queen, and any devoted Anglophile!

About The Author:

Sally Bedell Smith is the author of bestselling biographies of William S. Paley; Pamela Harriman; Diana, Princess of Wales; John and Jacqueline Kennedy; and Bill and Hillary Clinton. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair since 1996, she previously worked at Time and The New York Times, where she was a cultural news reporter. She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Stephen G. Smith.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. I was not compensated for my opinion.


Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

wow, this sounds fantastic! I am reading another (shorter :)) bio of her now. Thanks for the great review!

Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews said...

Thanks for coming by, Carrie!