On the 20th September, I sat down on the train to Birmingham and started to read this book. I had bought it the day before, at Waterstone’s, as second-hand, and simply because I am probably one of the few people in the world, who still have not seen the film. Not at all because of lack of interest! Not at all! I meant to go see it in the cinema, but that seems to be an impossibility for me nowadays, to get to go somewhere at all, except between the different schools and church. And then I meant to buy the DVD and see it at home, at least, and I finally did buy it at a very reduced price, since everyone has already seen it already, right?! But, it still sits with its plastic wrapper around it. The few times I have enough time to watch an entire film, I put on an old Midsomer Murder! Why? Because I don’t have to think, I don’t have to stay awake, I can just relax and let my mind wander or drift in to a short nap… I know how it ends, I know the lines. To see a new film, I really need to stay awake for sure don’t I? And I can not guarantee that I will after a long and strenuous week. Friday and Saturday evening being the only nights, one would be able to put on a film, in this house.
A book on the other hand, I can read whenever. Sitting in the car, helping with homework, when the children watch the children’s TV programs or a film. That is why I bought the book and for the life of me, I can not understand why the film became a hit, because the book certainly is not. Sure, the Amazon picture of it says it is the number one bestseller and on my copy it says, the top ten bestseller but I think this is the effect of the film. People running out to buy the book after watching the film, wanting more. Gorgeous Colin Firth sitting on the front of course is also a sale argument! I doubt the readers would say that it is a worthy bestseller though. Why?
Well, not having seen the film, I can only say what I think about the book and the fact that I started it on the 20 September and it taking me 20 days to finish it, says it all. Up till today, I had only achieved 80 pages and those 80 pages were pure struggle. To be honest, I don’t know what the author wanted to achieve? Telling Lionel Logue’s background up till he met the future King, might have caught the interest of his descendants, but it was worse than a sleeping pill. And to be honest, Mark Logue, doesn’t have that much to go on. He doesn’t REALLY tell who his grandfather was. The portrait is not a warm one, it just feels like bits and pieces put together in to a book, trying to tell us the readers of every meeting he had with Albert, later King George VI. What he comes up with, is something you probably could just puzzle together with the help of the internet, instead of being a deep insight in to what really happened. I guess his co-writer told him that he had to fill out the book with historical facts, to put things in context, but there are several mistakes, like saying something so stupid like the Allied forces meeting up on the Elbe on the 25 May and Hitler killing himself 5 days later. Excuse me, but since V-E day was the 8 May, that date is of course completely off the mark. And many times, the dates don’t match. Most of the time, he does this very annoying thing to, of first mentioning an event, like the King’s Christmas speech in one year, and then jumping back months, talking about this and that speech and how his health was deteriorating. Either you decide to write in consecutive order, or you focus on one thing first, like his health, and then on something else. So, poor writing technic from both men, and they really ought to have checked their facts before going to print.
Today, I decided that “this book has to be finished NOW because I have funnier books arriving next week”, I hope, like the biography of Churchill’s bodyguard. Can’t sit with this boring book then! That said, when George V’s health started to deteriorate, the book started to pick up. Before then, Albert and Logue had not really seen each other for years, since the initial treatments. But, to be honest, nothing of what I read next, which was fascinating, was new to me. The fornicating Edward becoming King, him soon tiring of the responsibilities and him having been so utterly seduced by the snake Wallis Simpson, that he no longer could think of responsibilities toward the Empire, well what can I say. It angers me every time, how he let his head be twisted like that, for a woman who was just after glory and attention! And money of course! Good thing he got out of the way. England would have lost the war with him at the throne, him and Chamberlain. As it was, the two best people for the jobs got in to power, George VI and Churchill, and it is always a delight to be reminded of this fact. But there are better books of course to read about that fact, than this one.
Yes, Logue did a tremendous job but as it says in the end of the book, what was his method really? Why was he successful where others had failed? The book doesn’t answer it because I don’t think Logue really knew himself and there is no documentation of it either. The fact is that noone knew that much about speech impairments in those days. Logue proclaiming that women don’t stutter because they do not listen to others, they just chatter on without listening to a word people say to them, just shows how clueless he really was. Someone says in the end of the book that he was a great psychotherapist and that is probably closer to the truth than that breathing exercises would have cured the King. As with all handicaps, one has to get over them. Whether it is learning to walk, talk, not be shy, not having social phobia or other phobias.
Knowing that in those days noone dared to talk to Royalty in a normal way, people bending over backwards to please, and never telling them the truth, is it strange that noone had been able to help Prince Albert? What Logue did was disregarding who his patient was, talking to him like he would with any patient. Not scraping the floor after each sentence, would have made the Prince relax and see him as a professional. Giving him encouragement at every turn, taking away all words that would be difficult in speeches, and making him practice, practice, practice, was the true trick. With practice comes perfection and with perfection, critique will not come from the press/audience and self-esteem will slowly rise. And when you have self-esteem you will be less and less daunted by public speech, talking to strangers and in front of an audience. The fact is, that when a person is nervous, he will breathe faster, break out in a sweat, stumble on words and speak very quickly. A nervous person will rarely give a good speech. So what Logue did was psychological, building the King’s self-esteem up so that he could deliver. But this could not be done without speech practice. How one does this, is the trick of course. What Logue really did, was being a friend to Albert when he gave the Prince/King, a safe haven and empathy.
On Shelfari, I gave the book three stars, but if I could, I think I would have given it three and a half, because it did show how much George VI had to struggle and especially how great importance the nation gave to his speaking abilities. They really would have been appalled by what the current Swedish King is getting away with today! My dad always said that the man is an idiot and he really is. There is no way to cover it over. The man can not even read a speech off, from a piece of paper. Both he and the heir to the throne, lack all ability to deliver a speech but since people today are less impressed with royalty and know that they are just clowns, it doesn’t really matter. They have absolutely no purpose what so ever in this country, except helping in the sale of gossip magazines with cute baby photos!