The Royal Governess. Wendy Holden. 2020. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: EVERYTHING was ready.
Premise/plot: The Royal Governess has a framework. It opens and closes in July 1987. Our heroine, Marion Crawford, is ever-hopeful and ever-prepared to receive royal guests. True, they have never come before. True, all attempts to contact the family for the past four decades have failed. But she's an optimist, I suppose. Surely one day the Queen will one day be hit with nostalgia and think of her once more and decide to forgive her.
But 98% of the novel takes place in the past opening in 1932. Marion Crawford is a young woman training to become a teacher. Her dream job would be educating children in the slums. But her superiors have other thoughts on where she might do the most good. What if her values and ideas could help shape the upper class and actually be a catalyst for real change? Marion is resistant. Her teach the wealthy elite? The snobbiest of snobs? Seriously?! But when an opportunity comes her way she does just that--and with royal children!
But is Marion being true to herself and her ideals by teaching royals? Is it a lost cause? Is she wasting her prime years in vain?
The book obviously focuses on her time as a governess raising Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. But children don't stay children forever. They grow up, grow distant, grow cold.
My thoughts: The Royal Governess falls into the 'almost' category for me. It might be historically accurate. Might. I haven't done research or gone digging to see if the author's spin matches what we do know of Marion Crawford, of Queen Elizabeth, of Princess Margaret. But Marion's perspective is a bit off-putting for this reader.
What do I mean? Well, you might think it would be mainly focused on her actual time with either Elizabeth or Margaret. Featuring conversations, sharing activities, building up that relationship. But the book doesn't do that. Instead it focuses more on the tension in Marion's personal, private life. How can she fit in a private life while working for the Royal family? Can she have a man on the side? A man not connected to the Royals? Can she have an active sex life and fulfill her needs? Just how much does she have to sacrifice to keep her job?
The book--when it's not sharing a little too much about Marion's private life--focuses on Marion's odd relationship with the king and queen. And let's not forget her lusting after Tommy Lascelles. How many scenes of her lusting after him do we need???
It's also a book that seems to do more telling than showing. We're supposed to get this idea that she practically raised Elizabeth and Margaret. That they were oh-so-dear to her that they were more than a job, more than a duty, they were her everything. Yet what we get in these pages is her internal complaining and doubting. We don't get mostly scenes showing her actually interacting with the children. We get scenes with her interacting with other staff.
I wouldn't have minded slowing down on the things she sped through and speeding through the things she slowed down on. For example, 1936 through the end of World War II. We get small snippets of scenes from this time period. But a hundred pages about Elizabeth when she's in love and preparing to get married.
I would much rather read repetitively about her taking care of the children than read repetitively her desire for a man.
I do think other readers might like this one more than I did.
I imagine The Little Princesses written by Marion Crawford would be more interesting than this one??? Maybe. I don't know.
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews