on 9 March 2012
Like others, I was very surprised at the number of errors in this book. The author claims to have read Shawcross's biography of the Queen Mother. If she did so then how did she get the part on the Queen Mum's honeymoon so wrong. The Duke & Duchess of York didn't go on safari to Africa in 1923, they went to Polesden Lacey near Dorking (not much in the way of big game there!). The Nahlin in which Edward VIII cruised in 1936 was not an Admiraly yacht but privately chartered from Lady Yule.
As a "Coventry kid" I was most annoyed at the information on the Coventry Blitz. Bradford says it took place on the day after Princess's Elizabeth broadcast on 13 October 1940. No, NO NO! It took place one month later on 14 November 1940 and Coventry had a population much greater than 47,000 stated in the book. It's a City not a small town. If Sarah Bradford had an editor who checked this book before publication, I would recommend that she fires him or her and get the book properly checked before the paperback version is published.
on 1 January 2012
I have read a few books on the life and times of our Queen. This seems to be an amalgamation of an earlier, superior biography written by Bradford. It's badly written, personal to the point it is subjective with a sting, and generally a poorly researched booked which leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Don't buy - it's awful.
The Queen has been in power spanning fourteen UK Prime Minister's terms of office, two more than Queen Victoria, and she has presided over a total 157 prime ministers from all the realms she has been or is head of state. Plus during her lifetime there was the second world war and the dismantling of the British Empire, with her mother being the last Empress of India and Britain going from a world super-power back to a small island monarchy once again. So perhaps it's little wonder this audio CD of the Queen's life and times spans 10 CDs and lasts 10 hours 40 minutes. Only problem is that the Queen doesn't give interviews and much of her state affairs are highly confidential, so a lot of the narration in this audio CD tends to be list of relatively trivial, although not uninteresting, family facts and a lot of people's names and places visited.
The book starts with the death of Elizabeth's father George VIth at 56, and her ascension to the throne while she was holidaying in 'Treetops' in Kenya. The narration then goes back to Elizabeth's happy 'us four' childhood and skips through the Queen Mothers early life, when her shy husband wasn't expected to become king. I have to say that Phyllida Nash does a good job of reading Sarah Bradford's book, so it doesn't get boring, and I found the narration easy to follow. One thing I really missed was the lack of pictures you'd get with the hardbound book or a TV documentary, but for the visually impaired this book does have a lot of interesting information. Personally I'm not too bothered if there is the odd error, as there is a heck of a lot of info here, but the book is a bit straight laced, very respectful and lacks funny anecdotes, so it all comes across as a bit dour. Plus I seemed to know most of what was said anyway (The Jarrow March gets one sentence, The Great Depression one more). The lack of photos and nothing much new meant that overall I was a bit disappointed, so 3.5* (in future I will stick to books with pictures). There were a few highlights though, like when Harold Wilson arrived at the Palace to become Prime Minister for the first time in 1964, he unexpectedly bought the wife and his kids along as well.
[To alleviate any confusion, this review is of the 2012 audio book.]
HM must sometimes have felt, as Turner did about art, that monarchy is a "rummy business". Sarah Bradford goes some way towards explaining how the Queen has successfully lived through so many changes, both political and personal.
The title "her life in our times" is an exact description; the Queen's life is, very properly, set in the context of UK and world history. Bradford gives the Queen full credit for adapting to the rapid changes in the world and in her life since, at the age of ten, she unexpectedly became heir apparent to the British monarchy. (The first CD is devoted to the period up to the coronation of George VI, and sets the scene for a Princess' future as Queen.) Most of us would recognise that her strength of character and a rock-solid marriage to the fiercely supportive Prince Philip have been major factors in her success, and Bradford gives these due coverage. However, she draws out a third cause, that the Queen has an excellent understanding of the nature of constitutional monarchy; consciously following her father's example, she has made good use of her Bagehot. (Bradford suggests that, in this aspect, the Queen's understanding was well ahead of Tony Blair's.)
There is good treatment of the Queen's relationship with most of her Prime Ministers; this included some surprises for me, especially that she rated Wilson highly; I had always assumed that she would prefer Tory politicians. Inevitably, the most compelling episode is the Thatcher years; Bradford disputes the popular view that Thatcher often acted as if she were the Queen, but then quotes several of the anecdotes which tend to support this view. The book led me to see a basic difference between the Queen and Thatcher: the Queen has always been a keen supporter of the Commonwealth, whereas Thatcher is primarily a nationalist.
Though Bradford is (probably)a Royalist, she pulls no punches about the Queen's restricted range of interests, frequently giving examples of meetings with other dignitaries who, because they couldn't ride, could have little social conversation with her.
There is in-depth coverage of the troubled love-life of the various Royals, from Edward VIII to the Queen's own children.
Although I enjoyed the audiobook and learnt a lot from it, I can give it only three stars, for two reasons:
-The coverage of British politics since 1990, and thus of the Queen's relationship with the Major/Blair governments, is very sketchy. Far more coverage is given to events following Diana's death; admittedly, that story marked the Queen's lowest point of popularity, but Bradford has little new to say on this. I would have much preferred more of the coverage as given of Blair's predecessors. (I have no idea whether the actual book has the same shortfall.)
-The CD narrator, Phyllida Nash, speaks quotations from some people, but not all, in "appropriate" voices. Thus the Queen and Queen Mother sound vaguely regal, Americans have a faint (but not very convincing) American accent, and Churchill is rendered with an atrocious impression of his "growl" (about as good as Jim Hacker's Churchill voice). Thankfully, this doesn't extend beyond native English speakers - I was dreading the prospect of a "De Gaulle" voice sounding like a malevolent Maurice Chevalier"! This ill-advised approach grates on the ear, and detracts from the listener's appreciation.
on 21 February 2012
I'm glad that I borrowed this book from my local library. If I had bought it I would want my money back as it has so many errors. These are the ones that I have seen - there must be many others. The FA Cup Final of 1952 against Newcastle was not "Matthews Final", it was the following year in 1953 against Bolton. Neil Armstrong didn't step on to the moon from Apollo 16, it was Apollo 11. Mrs Thatcher didn't say "Rejoice, just rejoice!" on the steps of No. 10 after the recapture of Port Stanley, it was the recapture of South Georgia.
Ms Bradford, did you really write this book? Was the proof read by anyone?
P.S. A few more errors having now finished the book. Tony Blair not quite 56 on becoming PM in 1997! Should be not quite 44, I believe. Ireland v England first rugby match in 2007 - wrong by about 100 years! And perhaps we loaned Ireland £7 billion in 2011, not £7 million! Oh dear!
on 15 December 2011
I was very disappointed with sarah bradfords book .I had read her book on diane and enjoyed it .To me this is just a rewrite of her earlier book on the queen .Our Queen which i read prior to this gave fresh insights of the queen this did not
This review refers to the 10 CD audiobook set which I received despite the description implying that it would be a printed book - I am happy with either format. This set of CDs is beautifully read which makes it an ideal "serialised" listen for car journeys. There may be the same factual errors that other reviewers point out in the printed version, but, I believe overall this disc set provides an interesting and atmospheric journey through the life of our Monarch - I feel I understand HM's achievements and contribution so much better after this audiobook. There is a sense of " political correctness" that is preserved throughout the text in that there is little evidence of cynicism or criticism (I'm not saying either is justified) and the handling of delicate issues is "sensitive". In this Jubilee year this is a great set of discs and we will buying a couple more sets as gifts. Recommended.
In 10 hours 40 minutes Phyllida Nash reads all of Sarah Bradford's biography of the Queen, and does a pretty good job of it. It makes pleasant listening, but Bradford's text contains a worrying number of factual errors. Facts are the raison d''être of any biography, so the errors in this one have scuppered it in royal fashion. My favourite factual gaff is her assertion that Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon aboard Apollo 16, when it was of course Apollo 11.
Errors aside, it's an otherwise faithful if somewhat subjective account of the Queen's life. Hopefully there will be an updated edition with all the relevant corrections. In Bradford's defence, she's not a bad biographer. Her biographies of Jacqueline Onassis and Diana are excellent, I just can't really hand-on-heart recommend this one.
on 7 June 2012
Let me make myself clear. I have listened to the Alan Tichmarsh audiobook that interleaves H.M.Queen's life with world events. It was 4 CDs and was surprisingly enjoyable. This is 10 CDs and isn't. The impression I get is that Ms Bradford, having access to a huge archive of information, is determined to squeeze it all in, in mind numbingly tedious detail. Of course, it may well be that the dead tree version of this book has wonderful illustrations so that the chronological shifts when dealing with the history of the royal family from before the Great War and the familial relationships don't leave one giddy and needing to take notes, but frankly I was falling asleep by the end of the 3rd disc, with the King having just seen his beloved daughter off on a tour to Australia that was destined to be cut short by his (sadly early) death.
There is much about the attitude of various members of the royal family towards other members that is presented as fact, when at best it can only be conjecture.
Phyllida Nash reads it well, with the occasional "weird"... to give an example, the inscription in a ring given by King Edward VIII to Wallis is read as "...27 times 36..." - this is a date (referenced in the text!) and probably reads 27.x.36, ie 27 October (in Roman numerals) '36. How best to read it I don't know, but "27 times 36" ain't the way not nohow.
Another thing that jarred was the flat intonation of the abdication speech... "...my duties as King as *I* would wish to do..." There should be an emphasis on the "I". It's not as though we don't know how it sounded, the recording isn't sealed away and the BBC have dug it out regularly.
There is a lot here, and those who like a romantic view will probably enjoy it a lot more than I. I think it needs more "zip" and a little more scissorwork. But what do I know? I'm not an author.
But by thunder, I know what I like and what I consider well written. And quantity does not equal quality.
FLAME AWAY! There will be praise enough from those that like it.
Listening to this audio book is pure joy. As a huge fan of the Royal family and the Queen in particular ( she is a dog lover so is generally quite fabulous) I was taken aback by just how mat momentous events' this woman has witnessed throughout her reign.
A young teenager when the Second World War broke out, she witnessed the pressure on her beloved father. She also had to deal with her sudden elevation to Heir presumptive when her Uncle David shirked his v
Duty and fled with Wallis Simpson.
The early discs deal with her childhood, explaining her greatest influences and formative experiences. Perhaps there is too much time spent on the reign of hr father, after all this audio book is about her reign.
Each disc continues the story until the last disc ends with the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The discs describe the relationships between the Queen and her various Prime Ministers. Regardless of the political party there was genuine respect and affection between them, despite their changing styles.
The author highlights who much the Queen takes her role as Queen seriously, she has dedicated he life to the nation and the Commonwealth. The commonwealth is a particularly cherished institution which the Queen believes helps nations to maintain close ties.
The narrator, Phyllida Nash has the correct accent to narrate this audio book and story. Rather plumy but warm and welcoming, She also affects accents when quoting Churchill and Americans. I liked her style of narration.
Any quibbles? No not really, I enjoyed this audio book using it in the car. I as left with a sense that Her Majesty is a woman who cares, gives her all and continues to do her good work regardless of the times or the fashion.