Title: The King’s Speech
Author: Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 6 hours, 54 minutes, 13 seconds
“At the urging of his wife, Elizabeth, the Duke of York (known to the royal family as “Bertie”) began to see speech therapist Lionel Logue in a desperate bid to cure his lifelong stammer. Little did the two men know that this unlikely friendship – between a future monarch and a commoner born in Australia – would ultimately save the House of Windsor from collapse.
Through intense locution and breathing lessons, the amiable Logue gave the shy young Duke the skills and the confidence to stand and deliver before a crowd. And when his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry for love, Bertie was able to assume the reins of power as King George VI – just in time to help steer the nation through the dark waters of the Second World War.”
Thoughts: Readers, or listeners, expecting the same story as the movie version starring the inestimable Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush will be quite surprised. Mark Logue’s The King’s Speech goes into much greater detail about the relationship between George VI and Lionel Logue, encompassing the greater part of their acquaintance. This makes The King’s Speech, the print version, a much more thorough and fascinating tale than the one told in the movie.
In fact, the movie version and the print version are very complimentary to each other versus competing against one another. One can see the movie and enjoy the book, and vice versa. Whereas the movie focuses on George VI’s treatments and ends at the beginning of World War II, the book expands its focus, creating a more comprehensive understanding of the work Lionel did with the king. It brings King George VI and the Queen Mother vividly back to life, while creating an amusing and poignant look at Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with her father. For American readers in particular, hearing about World War II from a purely British perspective is a great counterpoint to all of those school history lessons that only focus on the American involvement in the second World War. The entire narrative is immensely interesting, as it sympathetically portrays a young man struggling to present a brave face in spite of almost paralyzing shyness.
Simon Vance, as expected, does an excellent job narrating this most interesting of stories. He navigates his way through Australian, Scottish, American, and British accents with apparent ease, mimicking but never mocking the historic figures around which so much of the narrative revolves. His delivery is forthright, allowing King George’s and Lionel’s words to speak for themselves without inflecting his own opinions or impressions. Overall, it would be difficult to imagine anyone else narrative this fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the most unusual partnerships/friendships in British history.
The King’s Speech is mesmerizing because not only does it discuss the Royal Family, it deliberates on a somewhat common albeit still debilitating speech defect that could have cause to embarrass an entire nation. This is a great juxtaposition for readers who only experience electing their leaders and who would never elect someone with a similar speech impediment. Lionel’s intimate acquaintance with the Royal Family is as unique as it is extraordinary, and Mark Logue rightfully lets the deep regard in which both King George and Lionel held each other speak through their actual words. The resulting tale is one that provides readers with a frank and charming portrayal of a king and his speech therapist at an unparalleled historical period.
Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.