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Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly well told, but with room for improvement, 6 April 2012
This review is from: Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times (Audio CD)
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[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.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Jun 2012 12:59:34 BDT
R. A. Caton says:
Excellent review! Right to the point!
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