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An exhaustive, sweetly reassuring narrative that will appeal to any royal watcher.

The touching love story of the parents of Elizabeth II.

In her latest investigation of the royal family, former Vanity Fair contributing editor Smith, the bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen and Prince Charles, leaves no jewel unturned as she recounts the lives of an improbable couple who would do so much to steer their country through the turbulent period of the abdication crisis and World War II. The author, who was granted “the privilege of working in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle,” is mostly sympathetic to her flawed but lovable subjects: Bertie, the emotionally diffident second son of George V; and the winsome, exuberant young Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Though neither demonstrated a keen intellect, they rose to the occasion to become serious British monarchs, which was vital after the shameless irresponsibility of Edward VIII. After their marriage in 1923—after Elizabeth, reluctant to leave her free-wheeling social life and in love with another man, refused Bertie twice—the author alternates nuanced accounts of their respective lives within the same aristocratic social set. Elizabeth was the youngest of a large, wealthy, well-connected family, while Bertie toiled in the shadow of his charming older brother and only came into his own after the 1936 abdication, supported by his loyal wife and the speech therapist who helped him gain confidence (as depicted in the 2010 film The King’s Speech). As king and queen, they endeared themselves to their public by simply showing up, suffering through the Blitz together, and sharing their authentically warm family life with the British people. As one insider declared, “What a piece of luck that the Abdication happened. We have got precisely the monarchs who are needed at this moment in the Empire and the world.” Smith gracefully brings us into her subjects’ inner world, a journey aided by a generous selection of photos.

An exhaustive, sweetly reassuring narrative that will appeal to any royal watcher.

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9780525511632

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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Chronology, photographs and personal knowledge combine to make a memorable commemorative presentation.

Jackie Kennedy's secret service agent Hill and co-author McCubbin team up for a follow-up to Mrs. Kennedy and Me (2012) in this well-illustrated narrative of those five days 50 years ago when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Since Hill was part of the secret service detail assigned to protect the president and his wife, his firsthand account of those days is unique. The chronological approach, beginning before the presidential party even left the nation's capital on Nov. 21, shows Kennedy promoting his “New Frontier” policy and how he was received by Texans in San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth before his arrival in Dallas. A crowd of more than 8,000 greeted him in Houston, and thousands more waited until 11 p.m. to greet the president at his stop in Fort Worth. Photographs highlight the enthusiasm of those who came to the airports and the routes the motorcades followed on that first day. At the Houston Coliseum, Kennedy addressed the leaders who were building NASA for the planned moon landing he had initiated. Hostile ads and flyers circulated in Dallas, but the president and his wife stopped their motorcade to respond to schoolchildren who held up a banner asking the president to stop and shake their hands. Hill recounts how, after Lee Harvey Oswald fired his fatal shots, he jumped onto the back of the presidential limousine. He was present at Parkland Hospital, where the president was declared dead, and on the plane when Lyndon Johnson was sworn in. Hill also reports the funeral procession and the ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery. “[Kennedy] would have not wanted his legacy, fifty years later, to be a debate about the details of his death,” writes the author. “Rather, he would want people to focus on the values and ideals in which he so passionately believed.”

Chronology, photographs and personal knowledge combine to make a memorable commemorative presentation.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3149-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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