Before the Crown by Flora Harding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
📖 This is the story of Elizabeth and Philip before Elizabeth took her role as head of the royal family. It follows her story from a young girl, first meeting Philip to becoming a young woman, set to marry him. Obviously, creative license has been used but we do see Philip in a very different light, as a poor prince, evicted from his home country, brought up in England by a relative, estranged parents, and even more estranged sisters due to the war. We also get to see Elizabeth through her early years, quiet and thoughtful, slightly envious of her sister’s confidence, and most importantly very intrigued by Philip.
✍️ I am a huge fan of The Crown and was slightly nervous upon reading this book that it wouldn’t live up to that, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed it. It feels well researched, for example, it gave quite a lot of knowledge of Philip’s family and his relations around the world which was really interesting. It also recounted a lot of his naval experience through the war. As mentioned above they are told with creative flair but I imagine the facts and dates behind the events must be somewhat accurate to have been included.
🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:
As February blows itself into March, it feels to Philip as if he is leading a strange kind of double life… actually, a triple life, when he comes to think about it. There are those innocent evenings at the palace, drinking orangeade and larking around in the corridors, and then there are the evenings he spends in London with David Milford Haven and other friends, drinking in smoky clubs, all of them struggling to adjust to the dull grind of peace-time life.
Then there is another world again, at HMS Arthur in Corsham, where he is training petty officers and sleeps in a chilly and sparsely furnished munitions hut with a tin roof. He spends his evenings in the Methuen Arms, drinking mild and bitter and playing darts or skittles and discussing the possibility of cricket in the summer. It is a long way from Buckingham Palace.
👓 Viewpoint: This book is told both from Philip and Elizabeth’s viewpoint, often recounting the same event but from one or the others perspective. This was quite effective, and I enjoyed the author’s interpretation of how they might have felt about events in the royal household.
👫 Character(s): Philip’s character particularly in this book was really interestingly portrayed; humorous, smart, funny, quick-witted and even quicker to anger. Elizabeth was portrayed as stalwart and resilient, everything we would expect and need from our queen but there was a gentle side to her, particularly the times when Philip was in her orbit.
💔 Any Negatives: I would have loved to see a little timeline of events for this story (similar to what Barbara Erskine and others include in their historical book). Obviously, that’s not a requirement to the story, which as you can see from my review, I thought was fantastic, but I found myself wanting to break away from the book to google some of the events mentioned.
💭 Overall View: An interesting book, it feels like a step into Elizabeth and Philip’s lives and thoughts. The story is sweet with a charming naivety about it but also shows strength of character (when required). I felt like I learnt about the couple and particularly the events they went through which I always feel is a good sign of historical fiction. I really enjoyed it and would certainly recommend it to others.
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At the time of reviewing the kindle edition of this book it is on sale for £0.99 at Amazon (affiliate link):
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