Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Golden Prince: Book Review


The publishers must be rubbing their hands with glee with the timing of their launch of The Golden Prince as this tale of Prince Edward (Edward VIII) and his love for a relative commoner coincides with the recent announcement of  Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton.

The year is 1911, a time of social and political change in Britain. Prince Edward is 17 and studying at the naval college in Dartmouth. It's a lonely existence for the prince - he has no real friends to speak of and belongs to an unloving family whose life and behaviour are constrained by royal duties.

A car accident in the country lanes of Hampshire whilst returning to London brings Edward in contact with the Houghton family: four young aristocratic women living at Snowberry, their grandfather's delightful home. Rose (the eldest) is an intelligent Oxford educated suffragette; Iris is plain and of the hunting, shooting and fishing persuasion; Marigold a sexy vamp; and Lily, the beauty of the family has yet to be presented at court.

The ease of friendship these women extend to him plus the chance of stolen moments away from the constraints of duty are too tempting for the prince and he contrives to visit Snowberry as often as he can. Besides, he has fallen instantly in love with Lily...

The tale of their doomed love affair over the next year is played out against the background of great state occasions (the coronation of George V and Edward's investiture as the Prince of Wales) plus the parallel love stories and scandals of the other three sisters.

The elements of a cracking good read are there but sadly I found the telling of the tale to be stilted and wooden. Most of the characters aren't that well drawn: Edward is said to be a charming, dazzling, 'golden' prince adored by the people, yet I couldn't understand why that was so from what was presented by the author.

I also found Rose's story was the most compelling, rather than that of Lily and Edward. Being a child of the 60s, her sense of independence resonated more with me. I also couldn't understand how Edward, whose activities were so carefully watched, could manage to correspond with Lily so easily from the confines of Buckingham Palace. I thought the loose ends were tied up rather too neatly at the end with each sister finding a suitable romantic match within the space of a few chapters, leading to a rather convenient and abrupt ending in my view.

I'm rather surprised the author has chosen to tell this story using a fictional family and when the prince was so young: only a few years later Edward did have a thwarted romance with Rosemary Leveson-Gower during WWI. I believe a fictionalised account of their story set against the backdrop of a most tragic war would have been well worth reading. My overall score for this tale is an OK-ish 5/10.

The book's publicity states 'if you like Philippa Gregory you'll love this.' I for one prefer Philippa Gregory's richer, more engaging tales.

Note: I was given a copy of this book to independently review via fuelmyblog.

5 comments:

  1. always appreciate a good book review. Thanks.

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  2. Not for me I think - but what I want to know is which are the best gardening cookbooks this year - ad maybe we should test some recipes

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  3. Aunt Debbi - good to see you again :)

    Mark - I loved the Kitchen Garden Companion which I reviewed earlier - a very comprehensive but hefty tome. Might double up as a weight training device and help shift the pounds from all that cooking!

    But I'm no cookery book expert and there's so many of them...

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  4. Rebecca Dean's 'Enemies Of The Heart' was my first read when I joined a local book club. I quite enjoyed it and will probably give this one ago if I come across it in the library. Thanks for your review VP.

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  5. Hi Anna - it's worth a borrow from the library it's but not a keeper methinks

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