Sally Bedell Smith: Prince Charles

From the New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen comes the first major biography of Prince Charles in more than twenty years–perfect for fans of The Crown.

Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This vivid, eye-opening biography–the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for the first time–is the first authoritative treatment of Charles’s life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day.

Prince Charles brings to life the real man, with all of his ambitions, insecurities, and convictions. It begins with his lonely childhood, in which he struggled to live up to his father’s expectations and sought companionship from the Queen Mother and his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten. It follows him through difficult years at school, his early love affairs, his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his intense search for spiritual meaning. It tells of the tragedy of his marriage to Diana; his eventual reunion with his true love, Camilla; and his relationships with William, Kate, Harry, and his grandchildren.

Ranging from his glamorous palaces to his country homes, from his globe-trotting travels to his local initiatives, Smith shows how Prince Charles possesses a fiercely independent spirit and yet has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role, living a life dictated by protocols he often struggles to obey. With keen insight and the discovery of unexpected new details, Smith lays bare the contradictions of a man who is more complicated, tragic, and compelling than we knew, until now.

The monarchy might be an outdated institution in a lot of ways–to Americans it all seems romantic, but I know it has become controversial in modern times. Still, I can’t help but remain interested in the traditions of it all, the pomp and circumstance, and of course…the castles.

I really only knew Prince Charles from the background–stoic and frowning behind the Queen, Diana, William, and Harry. And Camillia has always seemed the Other Woman; Diana, the hero. But, in Charles’ life, it was just the opposite.

Diana certainly wasn’t a villain–just a woman in desperate need of good mental health care–and I wonder if she would have lived today if things would be different. I hope so. She wouldn’t have been any  more compatible with Charles, but maybe the stigma would have been a little less, the awareness a little more–and they would have gotten her the help she needed.

Maybe.

Either way, this book certainly shows Charles in a light we don’t often see–in that there is actually a light shown on him. It just goes to show that even the shyest introverts usually have the brightest, most complex personalities. I always thought he was such a fuddy-duddy, but I’m quite interested to see what becomes of his reign…should the Queen ever die, god forbid. Part of me wonders if she might outlive her son, at this point.

Netgalley and Random House provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Year of Wonders

Remember how this summer I was all keyed up and I was going to take a bunch of Coursera classes and get really really really smart?

Yeaaaaaaaah….that didn’t happen.

I took one really interesting psychology course, and then started a historical fiction course that was so boring and unorganized I stopped listening after two or three lectures. Sigh.

However, the reading list for that class was pretty great, and I’ve enjoyed some of the books that have come from it. I have been listening to one of those, Year of Wonders, since August. Audiobooks are a bit of a labor of love for me…I can only listen to them while my hands are otherwise occupied, so they take forever to get through, “reading” a bit at a time. I’ve been working overtime this week on emails, so I FINALLY got through the rest of it.

In Year of Wonders, Anna Firth finds herself in the center of the plague in 17th century England. Her village is overtaken by the disease, and as they quarantine themselves, she becomes the person strong enough in mind and body to care for everyone.

I have a feeling I would have enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ book much more if I would have read it the usual way rather than audiobook, as this is exactly the kind of historical fiction story I love. I would have devoured it in a day. Anna’s voice is so passionate and loving, you can feel how scared and frustrated she is with her situation. Brooks also included so much historic detail–from the medicines and religious beliefs, to the laws and punishments. There’s also some contrast with Muslim medical culture at the end of the book, which I found interesting, and it reminded me of The Horse Healer

Be prepared for FEELINGS. It’s a book about the plague, so there is sickness and death and anger and pain. How Anna (and real people like her) held up to it all, I will never comprehend.

Even though it took me forever to get through it, I really enjoyed this one–I know I would have REALLY liked it if it would have been a manual read, so 4 Book Dragons for Year of Wonders.

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Joseph Andrews

You know…there are just some reviews that I do not know how to write. I just sit here with my mouth open a little flabbergasted.

But, since I can’t move on to the next book until I review (kind of a cathartic/cleansing process), it must be done!

*wetdogshudder*

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When I think of England 1742, I do not think of comedy. I think of pomp and red coats and powdered wigs and tea. Very high brow, pinky in the air type stuff.

But, I suppose, every generation has their own form of entertainment…and Henry Fielding was apparently it. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to well to “funny” in 2015. Socially on point, maybe. Funny, no.

I only got through Volume 1, but the book is basically about a footman who has committed to abstinence until marriage. What? Yep, apparently he took the same health class we did. However, all these slutty women (I’m using this term because it is how the book refers to them, not because I want to slut-shame.) keep throwing themselves at him. Something about his chastity makes them absolutely crazy.

At one point, a woman all but forces him to have sex with her because she absolutely does not believe he is a virgin. He is a man, and poor, so obviously he is promiscuous, right?

“I can’t see why her having no virtue should be a reason against my having any; or why, because I am a man, or because I am poor, my virtue must be subservient to her pleasures.”

The woman goes on to say, “I am out of patience.” And then continues to bully him into giving it up because she is SO superior to him. She strips him of his wages and position in her rage.

There are other similar instances, and all of them are supposed to be, as Fielding calls it, “burlesque,” or slapstick. They are meant to be comedic, and not serious. However, in today’s culture, I think it’s a great example of how sexual pressure can go either way. I realize it is fiction, but to have this example from 1742…it just stuck out at me as something to keep in mind.

One really obnoxious thing about this book are the characters’ names. Some are normal:  Joseph, Fanny, Pamela. But you know a character is going in the story for dramatic or comedic effect based on their name. People like Lady Booby, Madame Slipslop, and Constable Suckbribe. I WISH I were making this up. Constable SUCKBRIBE?! I mean…really. I guess that’s slapstick in 1742. Someone please write an SNL skit for this. Please.

I do feel like he spends more time explaining his book than actually having a book to explain. He gets sidetracked or something, I’m not sure. We’ll be in the middle of a scene, and it’ll be like “Squirrel! Oh, let me explain to you a thing.” And he’ll go on a tangent about the chapter headings. What?

Weirdest book ever. Ok, probably not. But it’s definitely up there. I’m not sure I have the brain cells necessary to try for Vol. 2, so I’m just going to list it and move on down the line.

Constable Suckbribe. Really? REALLY?!

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