Review: The Royal We

The Royal We
The Royal We

This was quite possibly the most unexpected, and entertaining read I have had in a very long time. I picked it up on a sale – and had very low expectations, despite all the good reviews. As a royal watcher, I don’t know anything I dislike more than when people write royal fiction a) get things wrong and/or b) set it in an existing country. In short, I was super skeptical.

This is the story that went beyond that for me. It is built on the story of Will and Kate, but with a whole different origin premise in who inherited the throne after Victoria I – and it keeps wobbling back and forth on the backstory of the royal line. What if the heir to the throne falls in love and marries an American?

I laughed, and I cried (several times) during the reading of this. It is so well-written that the pages just fly by, and even though I had planned on going to bed early, I just had to finish it.

In several ways the story was as implausible, but it was sweet and interesting. The book worked for me in a major way, and I can’t wait to reread it.

Advent calendar: Fika – the art of the Swedish coffee break

Today’s fun read was Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, with Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats.

Fika is to Sweden what kaffe is to Norwegians – only even more so. It’s coffee, but it is not just grabbing a cup to go at a Starbucks. And it is not just covered by the Norwegian meal that somehow comes after dessert when you’ve visited your grandmother. It is sitting down, and taking a break from your day to enjoy the coffee, and something to bite in alongside it.

It is going on a train ride and bringing pastry and a coffee cup (or tea) to enjoy.

The book is fun and sweet and nicely illustrated.

Advent calendar: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a WomanOne of the royal biographies I read this year was Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.

If you are into history, women in history or royalty, I heartily recommend it. It took me some time to get through after the initial first pages, but that was more due to personal lack of time than the book itself.

I actually think the first parts of the book is the best – when Catherine leaves her home and family to travel to Russia to marry a young man she hasn’t seen. Adopting a country that she has never been to, a religion that is foreign to her and also a language that is far beyond what she is used to.

Catherine, and the ups and downs of her life at court, have been, in my opinion, well portrayed by Massie. If you haven’t read it yet, do.

Advent calendar: Seriously delish

The twee title aside – I just finished leafing through Seriously Delish, and think it may be one of my favourite cookbooks of the year in terms of entertainment value, and interesting recipes.

It can get a bit too chatty at times, but as I leafed through the version bookmarking about every other recipe (Must try this, must try that. Ohh, when I have time for Christmas cooking. Maybe New Year’s eve.)

What I liked was the experimentation involved in the recipes making it fun to read.

Advent calendar: Icons of England

Icons of England

I am an anglophile. I studied in Newcastle Upon Tyne, albeit only for a semester. During that semester, (as well as both before and after it) I travelled around a bit in the UK.

Another admission: I love Bill Bryson’s writing. Sadly, although this was edited by him, he is not the author of it. (Just as the Prince of Wales wrote the foreword, but didn’t write the whole thing.)

Reading through this is like watching a quintessential English show or movie taking place in the countryside. Heartbeat. (Which my Mum has been addicted to,) or Hot Fuzz. (Before the shootings.)

 

Advent calendar: Fighting chance

I read this yesterday. A fighting chance by Elizabeth Warren. It is her memoir.

I am recommending it because I found it an interesting read, albeit not a very objective one (since it is a memoir.) I particularly liked when she pointed out the difference in growing up in the US when college cost the student $50 a semester vs. now. How she countered expectations of being just a wife and a mother. How she got her education and the difficulties for academic spouses when two jobs don’t open up in the same town at the same time.

Her political career is a minor part of the book – the ending of it, in fact.

Incidentally, I had just finished reading it, when a friend of mine in Massachusetts posted a picture of her quilted bedspread on Instagram. The motif? Logos of the campaigns she has worked on, or followed. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign was smack in the middle.

Advent calendar: Year of Yes

For my Advent calendar this year, I thought I would do recommendations – one recommendation a day. (Off-line, I have a multitude of advent calendars as well.)

For December 1, my first recommendation is The Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes.

I finished reading this a couple of days ago (bought and paid for my own copy) and immediately upon finishing it, I could think of several friends who just “have” to read this book. It is funny, and poignant and for everyone who has had stage fright, depression, anxiety, love their jobs, hate their jobs, love their siblings, hate their siblings, and for everyone who feel guilt about whatever they feel guilt about.

I bookmarked the following quote from it:

I’m miserable? I’m still a little ashamed to be telling you that right now. I’m miserable. Who in the hell do I think I am? A whiner. That’s who. A great big old whiner person. You know who gets to be miserable? Malala. Because someone shot her in the face. You know who else? The Chibok schoolgirls. Because the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped them from school for forced marriage (which is just like regular marriage except exactly the opposite and full of rape) and no one cares anymore. You know who else? Anne Frank. Because she and about six million other Jewish people were murdered by Nazis. And? Mother Teresa. Because everyone else was too lazy to treat the lepers and so she had to do it. It’s pretty shameful of me to sit around saying I’m miserable when there are no bullets in my face and no one’s kidnapped me or killed me or left me alone to treat all the lepers.

Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor

I just finished reading Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor

It is very well written, and I do recommend it. (So far, anyway.) But what strikes me is the notion that with royal biographies (and presumably others) there is a bias towards the subject. Queen Mary is viewed as the perfect royal, albeit maybe a little unfamiliar with her own children. Queen Alexandra, on the other hand, is viewed as not the perfect royal – and too close to her own children, and loving and caring towards her grandchildren.

An interesting contrast.

Review: Kongens hus : Alle kongeparets hjem

Kongens hus : Alle kongeparets hjem by Queen Sonja

I picked this up at the library, after I saw it exhibited at the Open Palace tour in Oslo. It is a beautiful book filled with photographs and interesting text about all the residences that the King and Queen inhabit.

The book is worth looking through for the photographs alone. How the interior is decorated, and not just the public rooms. The pictures of the private apartments are filled with the Queen’s art and the King’s sailing trophies. The pictures of Queen Sonja’s art on the walls remind me of the pictures of the art in the renovated palace in Copenhagen.

Also, pictures of the holiday residences are shared. Some of the places are rarely seen inside by the public.

In addition, if you read Norwegian – the snippets the Queen shares for each residence makes the book worth reading. There is not much new information, but it is well written and makes the book.

Her perfectionism is shown through the story of her sleeping in every bedroom in the palace prior to the renovation so she would know exactly what needed to be done. The only negative is the lack of comments on the uproar on the cost of the renovation.

Her stories are supplemented by facts from the architect Thomas Thiis-Evensen and art historian Ole Rikard Høisæther.

Well worth the read.

 

Haakon & Maud

Grrr… Just finished reading this Norwegian series of books – allegedly about King Haakon and Queen Maud. It was meant to be a two volume series.

In reality, the author was given (almost) free access to a whole lot of royal archives of letters, diaries and other documents (in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and the UK – among others), and went a bit nuts.

In reality, it is now six volumes – and the majority of volume six deals with how the Norwegian government in Norway during WWII. Wait… No… that’s inaccurate. It goes from May to September 1940.

He is writing another volume (at least) for the rest of the war and the post-war years.

In general, the writing is good, and the royal letters and thoughts are interesting. But there is just too much information that maybe could have been cut, because it is generally known, redundant or not relevant for the biography on Haakon and Maud.

For example the half-page biography on Hitler.

Or the extreme repetition of the telling of the murders of the tsar and his family, in all their blood and gore. Which, in itself, is relevant to the story, but not in the extreme overload that is shared.

And the same goes for the volume detailing about half of 1940.

Also, the theory that Olav was not the son of Haakon – but the son of the royal doctor is in, but the theory that the sister of Carl/Haakon/Charles had a child out of wedlock is dismissed.

The six books that have been published so far could very well have been edited down to four. Maybe five with a generous editor. But as it is, it has transcended from being a biography about Haakon and Maud into a never-ending story about everything and the kitchen sink (almost.)

If you do read Norwegian, I recommend it – it is by Tor Bomann-Larsen, (who also wrote the cutest children’s book about when the royal family learnt to ski.) and it has won a lot of awards. It is well written. It just, in my opinion, should have been edited down a bit.

Review: Madeleine : Prinsessan privat

Madeleine : Prinsessan privat by Johan T Lindwall
I’m not sure I will ever get used to the Swedish royal reporters’ way of writing biographies. First of all – there is too much inference of what the persons in this book were thinking about specific events. Another reviewer said that a problem with it is that with Johan T. Lindwall you never quite know what are the facts, what are the rumours and what is pure speculation, and I thought *that’s it*: that is my basic problem with the book. There are no citations or footnotes at the end, so you can tell when he is working from the facts from interviews, or other books. Obviously, he also has to protect his sources, and when the sources are the main persons themselves, he is diligent about reporting who said what.  It does however, resort in a slight muddle when you hear about “Queen Silvia thought…” and the people in the room with Queen Silvia at the time were just family… and none of whom are being quoted as the person talking to Lindwall.
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Mette-Marit takes the literary train out on the tracks again

May 26 and 27, the Norwegian court announced, Crown Princess Mette-Marit will make another literary train journey. It is a follow-up to the literary train ride she took last year.

Like last year, they have transformed the royal rail carriage into a library. This time the train will go from Trondheim to Hamar, and make stops on Oppdal, Ringebu and Lillehammer. At Lillehammer, the Crown Princess will open the Norwegian Literature Festival.

This time she is collaborating with the local libraries at the stops, and authors have also been invited along. Two authors will be traveling along the train – Tore Renberg and Harald Rosenløw Eeg.

Other authors and literature critics will participate along the way on the stops.

At the Norwegian Literature Festival at Lillehammer the Crown Princess will, in addition to do the official opening, have a literary salon with two Norwegian authors.

The journey ends at Hamar.

 

Book review Mary and Frederik 10 years

ItemImage.aspxI picked this up in October when I was in Denmark.

It’s a nice book filled with lots of nice pictures.

It details how they met, their wedding, the children, and their work over the past ten years.

If you have followed them for the past ten years, there is next to little new.

If you haven’t, or am new to royal watching, the book gives a nice overview.

Another review comments on how the book tries to show their everyday life. The down-to-earth of making breakfast for the children, and picking them up at daycare, but gloss over the details that doesn’t necessarily show the family off as the down-to-earth Danes that just happen to live in multiple palaces – such as the nannies.

Overall, the writing gets a bit sugar-sweet, but as an overview it is a decent enough book.

 

Review: A Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country

A Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country
For some reason, I really seem to enjoy books where people move to another country and give their reflections on living there. In this case, British journalist from London moving to Jutland, Denmark. (Something a lot of Copenhageners I know would have had a serious problem with.)

She covers topics, month for month, as she gets used to living in Denmark and the oddities of Danes seen from a British perspective. Sometimes some of the chapters seemed overly long, but as there was a red thread binding the story together, it felt like a complete project.

In some things I could definitely recognise the first period when I moved to Denmark myself – and my first meeting with the Danish tax returns… By virtue of speaking Norwegian you’d think it would be easier, and it was, somewhat, but bureaucratic Danish language is in a linguistic family of its own, with little recognisability to Norwegians.

The stories are funny at times, and interesting at others. (Sometimes both funny and interesting.) Well worth a read.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell (Amazon.co.uk link)

Review: Royale Rejser: Bag kulisserne med de kongelige

The book Royale Rejser: Bag kulisserne med de kongelige by John Lindskog depicts the story in 15 chapters of various photographers who have been following the Danish royal family through the years.

It tells the story of King Frederik who did not much care for the photographers, but had one he tolerated. Prince Henrik who was taught how to sail by a photographer. The photographer who got the scoop of Mary and Frederik together on holiday in Australia, based on something Mary had said in an interview a lot earlier. It also tells of how they might not publish something because the royal family asked them not to.

Of course, the stories in the book are subjective – as the last chapter’s interpretation that Queen Margarethe will abdicate any day now. (The book was written in 2009.)

The photographers share the stories of how it is to travel with the royal family. How they can joke with them one minute, and be very formal the next.

And the story of how one of them – Martin Jørgensen married into the family, sort of.

As more and more newspapers and magazines are starting to rely on pool photography and buy from a limited number of photographers, it seems like the type of photographers in this book, who photograph the royal family for so long that they get a relationship with them, may be a dying race.

I found the book fascinating, and if you read Danish, it is definitely worth a read.

Review: On Duty with the Queen: My Time as a Buckingham Palace Press Officer

On Duty with the Queen: My Time as a Buckingham Palace Press Officer
On Duty with the Queen: My Time as a Buckingham Palace Press Officer by Dickie Arbiter

The book details the time of Dickie Arbiter’s work in the press office at Buckingham Palace. First working for the Prince and Princess of Wales, then later for the royal collections (and also seemingly chipping in whenever needed, as with the funeral of the Princess of Wales).

He also interjects his personal history into the book, and at times that felt more interesting than the royal “scandal” of the week that he had to defuse.

There are personal observations about the royals in the book. However, he is also very careful about not saying much that would (probably) violate a non-disclosure contract. It can therefore get a bit bland at times.

I found the chapter on the planning and arranging of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales fascinating. Especially the bit about extending the route of the funeral cortege to spread the crowds out.

All in all, a decent read.

 

Amalienborg – a book review

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Amalienborg by Jørgen Larsen, Thomas Larsen, and Bjarke Ørsted

The book is heavy, and filled with pictures and history. There are interviews with Queen Margrethe, Prince Henrik and Crown Prince Frederik and on their relationship with the palace.

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Review: Still Reigning: Thoughts of a Queen

Still Reigning: Thoughts of a Queen
Still Reigning: Thoughts of a Queen by The Queen [of Twitter]

I loved and chuckled often at The Queen_UK on Twitter in the beginning. I have the first book, and laughed several times while reading it. In most of her tweets and analysis, I thought she was spot on. Witty.

However, with this one… I don’t find it nearly as funny. Maybe because there is so much repetition between each chapter, and sometimes “she” contradicts herself from chapter to chapter.

Plus, I get that it is a gimmick, but after hearing in chapter after chapter (not to mention in several tweets over the past couple of years) how much the Queen of Spain loves Phillip Schofield, I got a bit tired of the whole concept. There is a decided lack of imagination, beyond some jokes that gets repeated ad nauseam.

It is a fun idea when you evolve as you go along, but to me the fun of it has outlived itself.

If you haven’t read the first book, or followed the persona on Twitter, then it is worth the read. If you have… probably not. (And I feel supremely grumpy for saying that, because I really wanted to be entertained.)

 

Queen Margrethe’s life in a comic book

September 16 the publishing house Cobolt releases the first in a series of new comic/illustrated books. The topic of the series is Queen Margrethe and her life. The first in the series follow her from birth to when she becomes the Queen of Denmark.

Like a lot of the Queen’s life – this is a dual collaboration between Denmark and France. Erik Svane, a Danish author living in France, and Thierry Capezzone, a French artist living in Denmark, have worked together to produce this. DAISY – EN PRINSESSE I DANMARK

Book series I love: Amour et Chocolat by Laura Florand

There are a couple of book blogs that I follow. Every now and then, they share special offers – when a book is off at Amazon, for example. I buy wayyyy too many of these recommendations. The majority of them just end up hanging around on my Kindle app, in the event that I will read them. (I have a very full Kindle app.)

But I do read them, eventually.

One of those offers ended up with me buying the first book in Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat, The Chocolate Thief

Every now and then I read a series that I think – more people should know about this. Amour et chocolat (don’t worry, the books are originally in English) is one of those series. I bought the first book in October last year, and by the time Christmas came around, I had read all the books in the series twice. Granted, I read fast, but that is still a very quick re-reading of a series, even for me.
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