Prompt: A book with a family tree
I picked up The Summer queen from one of my Little Local Library Hub book swaps. I do enjoy historical fiction and have read fiction based on May of Teck which I really enjoyed. You definitely need a family tree to keep track of the enormous extended Royal Family and the web of cousins and marriages across Europe.
What it’s about?
August 1879, Osborne House. Queen Victoria has occupied the British throne for over forty years. Bringing together her extended family from across Europe offers a chance for old alliances to be strengthened and new unions to be forged.
May Teck, daughter of a Duke and Princess, is constantly reminded that she lacks the pedigree to be a true royal. Considering herself an outsider, she finds comfort in meeting two kindred spirits at Osborne; creating a bond with them that she thinks will last forever.
Alicky lives in the shadow of her older siblings and has never recovered from the death of her mother. Until she meets Nicky, heir to the Russian throne, who sweeps her off to his homeland where life will never be the same again.
And then there is Willy, destined to be the future Kaiser of Germany. Suffering from a birth defect, he’s always kept his true feelings locked away and all the world sees is the bombastic persona he projects. As shifting forces of power send warning ripples across Europe, an unavoidable war looms on the horizon.
What I think:
This is such an interesting way to bring three extraordinary life stories together. May, Alicky and Willy are all part of the extended Royal Family. willy and Alicky are grandchildren of Queen Victoria. Willy is her eldest grandchild and future Kaiser of Germany, Alicky is her favourite granddaughter and May is a first cousin once removed to the matriarch. Despite their proximity to the throne and privileged lives they are all somewhat outsiders.
May is only a Serene Highness and faces the mockery of her royal cousins. Something that is not helped by her family’s precarious financial position that sees them exiled to Italy. Alicky, while beautiful, is quiet and shy; other people believe she is haughty. She is religious and thoughtful and often feels out of place among her lively cousin. Willy is serious and resentful. A breech birth has left him with a deformed arm and his relationship with his parents is strained.
One summer at Osbourne House they may a pact; the three kindred spirits will stick together and support each other. Alicky ominously predicts that if the pact is broken disaster will befall them all.
The book is sweeping and evocative. Beginning in 1879 and ending after the Second World War these three young people grow and develop, face tragedy and heart ache and find themselves, sometimes surprisingly, ruling the most powerful countries of Europe.
The historical events are well known, but the writer gives voice to the inner feelings of the real people.
Despite the focus split narratives, I felt that May was the central character. May is an unlikely, but ultimately perfect choice for Queen. Initially engaged to Eddy, the heir, she overcomes heartache when dies before their wedding. Marrying his brother she struggles in her relationships with George’s family, particularly is mother and domineering sisters. Throughout the course of the book she finds her confidence and her place within the royal family. Ultimately it is May, who as Queen Mary, survives.
Alicky’s story is just heartbreaking. The reader goes into it knowing the tragic fate of the Romanov family but despite this you still will her to make different choices at pivotal points in the novel. The chapter featuring Tsarevitch Alexei are particularly poignant.
If you like royal stories and historical fiction you will love this. Evocative and detailed, it brings historical figures back to life as real people with hopes and fears.