There is a new Norwegian book out, about Queen Sonja. Dronningen by Ingar Sletten Kolloen.
Already last week, the papers were filled with news from the book (some of which were definitely known before) her two miscarriages, that Mette-Marit served her potential mother-in-law pasta with canned tuna the first time they met, (the book specifies that both Haakon and Mette-Marit were serving the dinner) her sister’s suicide, and that the Queen mentions that she sometimes has trouble understanding her daughter’s alternative route.
It is a fairly hefty book, clocking in at over 500 pages. It is a beautifully designed book, and, although I could have wished for more glossy photos, the ones that are in it aren’t just photos that we’ve seen a thousand times before.
The book touches slightly on Sonja’s upbringing and her background, but the main focus is from the night she meets the Crown Prince at a party hosted by a mutual friend and up until today.
What I appreciate about this particular retelling of the story are the details; some details that haven’t been told before publicly, some have, perhaps, been held back in previous books about Sonja out of the respect of other persons, leads to a book that is more frank than both her previous biographies have been.
Her sister’s suicide (Queen Sonja: One always thinks one could have done more, should have seen more), her own miscarriage just weeks after… it must have been a really tough year.
The focus is more on her difficulties in finding her place in the organization, being a working mother, the differences between being born into the royal family vs. marrying into it, and the role she now fulfils. She is also quite eager to leave an easy job for her successors, and most of her story as a Crown Princess and Queen seems to be also the stories of reforming the Norwegian court and making it into a corporation, where there are meetings with several people instead of just audiences for the King and he decides everything.
I also enjoyed hearing the stories about her grandchildren, and that first Christmas with Marius.
As a Norwegian, I also appreciate reading what goes on behind the scenes for the major events in promoting Norway abroad, and for the royal events such as the Silver Cruise.
I rather like that she isn’t painted with a perfect image, but that her flaws (too much perfectionist at times, didn’t have enough time for her children as they were growing up) also appears. The author had around 40 talks with the Queen in the preparation for the book, and he also talked to those close to her, and I think that thoroughness really shines through.
There are a couple of minor things here and there which made me stop up when I was reading it, such as naming Princess Alexandra of Berleburg #5 in the line to the Danish throne until she married (p. 353). As far as I know, (and feel free to help my understanding those who know better) there was a clause in her grandfather’s accept for Richard and Benedikte’s marriage – that the children should move to Denmark when they started school – and since neither of them did, none of them are in line to the Danish throne.
But, all in all, I find it a very well-written book, easy to read, despite the length (as long as you understand Norwegian) and I appreciate that new things about Sonja and her opinions are coming to light. If you don’t understand Norwegian, this is really not the book to get – the pictures don’t weigh up for the price if you can’t read any of the text.