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A Brief History of Montmaray (The Montmaray Journals) Library Binding – October 13, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Montmaray Journals Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Best of the Month, October 2009: On a remote island kingdom of Montmaray live the last of the FitzOsbornes, a royal family of scrappy (but dignified) orphans teetering on the edge of poverty in their crumbling castle. It’s 1936, and sixteen-year-old Sophie occupies her days with mundane household chores, half-hearted study in the family library, raising her unruly tomboy sister, and keeping a diary of distant hopes and longings. Her older cousin Veronica—a budding scholar—writes a history of the Montmaravians while keeping close tabs on the current political signs that point to another world war. One of those signs--in the form of a boat carrying Nazi "historians"--lands on their shores. The arrival of the Germans sets in motion a chain of events that rivals any of the high adventures of the princesses’ colorful ancestors. Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray breathes new life into the dark and stormy romantic suspense novels that made earlier generations ardent fans of the Bröntes, Daphne du Maurier, and Victoria Holt. Teens and 'tweens will be tearing through the novel's second half by the night light. --Lauren Nemroff --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 7–10—It's 1936, and 16-year-old Sophie FitzOsborne lives on the edge of poverty in an island castle off the coast of England. With her cousin Veronica; her younger sister, Henry; a dog named Carlos; and her reclusive Uncle John—the mad king of Montmaray—for company, Sophie spends her days helping her cousin and the few remaining servants keep house while documenting her dreams and experiences in her journal. The girls' intellects and fierce determination are put to the test when the Nazis invade their island and quickly turn their state of solitude into a struggle for survival. This book has a bit of everything: romance, betrayal, a haunting, espionage, psychological discord, intimate liaisons, and murder. Although the beginning is heavily laden with the protagonist's accounts of historical events, the mood eventually shifts to an exciting pace illustrating the heroine's adventures and courageous endeavors to preserve her family's bond and royal lineage.—Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: The Montmaray Journals
  • Library Binding: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375958649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375958649
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,521,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Because I have nine grandchildren, 5 of which fall into the category of teen or young adult, I read many teen and young adult books as a preface to providing them as gifts. A Brief History of Montmaray is at the top of my list for being entertaining, suspenseful, and well-written. The author paints such a vivid picture of this island and its inhabitants -- all through the eyes of a young teenage girl -- that it's hard to believe it's a fictitious place. I had to put a sweater on while reading because I could feel the chill in the dark and dank castle! What a talent Michelle Cooper has to be able to bring the characters so effectively to life just through a first person narrative! I'm not a teen or young adult, but I was totally captivated by the story, and I'm hoping for a sequel. Ms. Cooper didn't have to resort to vampires, werewolves, or the like to write a terrific book -- scary Nazis work just as well. I highly recommend it to teens, tweens, young adults, grandmothers -- anyone looking for a good read. The only problem was it was over too soon!
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Format: Hardcover
Sophia FitzOsborne lives with her cousin Veronica, and her younger sister and tomboy Henry on the small island of Montmaray, located in the Bay of Biscay. They, along with Sophia's older brother Toby, are the last descendants of the royal family of Montmaray, and despite their titles, live in near poverty in their crumbling castle. Sophia begins writing about her life and dreams in her journal as war brews in Europe and crises strike the small island. Then, when a small group of Nazis arrive at Montmaray, wanting to see the castle's library, everything changes irrevocably for the FitzOsbornes and their tiny country.

A Brief History of Montmaray is simply divine. It is the best imaginable combination of wit, hardship, love, adventure, and history. Sophia is such a genuine and truly likable character, and her clever descriptions of her home and the quirky and unique individuals that inhabit Montmaray are unforgettable. The wry and self-deprecating humor that comes with being poor is endearing, and as much as they struggle, the characters are dignified and strong and completely engrossing. Sophia is a dreamer, and while she loves her home and her family, she can't help but want to see London and experience the balls and parties and dinners her aunt frequently takes part in. She is torn between wanting to leave and loyalty to her home and Veronica, who refuses to abandon Montmaray. The life these orphans live and the history of their island is fascinating and impeccably detailed and researched, making it hard to believe that Montmaray and the FitzOsbornes don't actually exist. The action scenes towards the end are quite harrowing and filled with surprising revelations, making for a suspenseful conclusion. A Brief History of Montmaray is a lovely, unique, and entertaining book in the spirit of Daphne du Maurier, Eva Ibbotson, and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, and one that will make the rest of the books in your reading pile seem lackluster and boring in comparison.
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Format: Hardcover
A Brief History of Montmaray is a book that manages to be both simple and complex at the same time. It is the story of a girl living a mundane life in a poor, isolated island with her family and a few friends. But it is also a story filled with vibrant personalities, from Sophie's intellectual cousin Veronica to her tomboy little sister Henry. It is also the story of a pivotal time in history, at the eve of World War II where the Nazis are already starting to meet their mark.

Many people who review this book compare it to I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. I hate to repeat a tired theme, but it really did remind me a lot of I Capture The Castle. The feel of the books is the same. Unfortunately, I liked I Capture the Castle, but did not love it. I feel very much the same about A Brief History of Montmaray.

Let's start with what I loved. The characters. Without a doubt. Michelle Cooper created a group of quirky, charismatic characters who make you laugh more often than not. Sophie is a nice, fairly plain girl who is surrounded by extreme personalities. Henry has to prove to everyone she is all boy. Veronica has to constantly be intellectual. Rebecca has to be constantly unpleasant and worship mad King John. The list goes on. While the characters are eccentric, they are also well developed. By the end of the book, they are more than their quirks.

I also loved the idea of the book. Montmaray is a fictional island off the coast of England that has its own monarchy (I didn't realize it was fictional at first and had to Wikipedia it to find out). Sophie is part of the royal family, but other than her bloodline, she is as poor as a churchmouse. The book is very atmospheric. You feel the cold gloom of Montmaray, but also the beauty of the small, closeknit island.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is Sophie's first person diary/journal account of the events and people of the island kingdom of Montmaray. Set in 1936 the world is gearing up for turmoil, and it soon becomes clear that Montmaray will not be immune.

As the residents of Montmaray continue to relocate, and as the king grows more and more senile, the duties and responsibilities fall to his children and his nieces and nephews - most under the age of twenty. So, when an offer comes from an aunt for Sophie and her cousin Veronica to come to England, Sophie is torn between her desire to see London and her loyalty to Montmaray.

I was instantly captivated by Cooper's style and I liked Sophie's voice and character. It felt honest and real and a good counterpart to all the other vivid characters of the story. The plot kept me guessing and I was surprised more than once.

Admittedly, this book is probably more 4 1/2 stars because a few sections did seem a tad slow. But, the ending was so much the opposite that I bumped it up a notch. That said, for me *personally* it was probably a four star enjoyment level as I was quite surprised (and made a tad queasy) by a few of the chapters/scenes. The book takes a rather dark and gruesome turn about half-way through (which thankfully doesn't last much more than two or three chapters), and while nothing was horribly detailed, the idea of night intruders and mutilation were enough to make me stop reading this book before bed - but not enough to make me stop reading it all together ;)

Not only am I curious to read the next installment - I've already ordered it :)
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