Author: Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Nonfiction – History
Sure enough everybody has heard of a movie called The King’s Speech, as apart from being pretty good, it turned out to be the big winner in the 2010 edition of the Academy Awards, calling the attention of even more people. But what about the real story that inspired the movie? What about the real struggle of King George VI to fight his speech impediment? What about the real Lionel Logue who helped him stop stammering? What happened before and after the two men met? Lionel’s grandson Mark Logue wondered these same questions and, encouraged by the production of the movie, started researching everywhere he could to discover the true story of The King’s Speech. Under this title and with the help of biographies authour Peter Conradi, he wrote a very interesting book gathering all that information.
When reading the introduction of the book I was surprised to read that, as opposite as I thought, the book was written after the release of the movie. Mark Logue had always known about the conection between his grandfather Lionel and King George VI, but was never curious enough as to go much deeper. It wasn’t until the producer of the film approached him that he finally decided to go through the pile of Lionel Logue’s old photographs, letters, newspaper articles and diaries that had been passed from generation to generation. He did so to help make the film as accurate as possible, however, once he started he couldn’t stop. It soon became his personal project and he continued researching even after the movie was finished. It really interested me to know how the authour ended up writing the book and how he managed to gather all the information for it. It even encouraged me to research about my own roots and prevent the amazing stories of my ancestors to come to oblivion.
After a sort of prologue narrating the coronation of King George VI, the book goes back to where everything started. First you get to know about the personal life of the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, from the moment he realised he loved elocution and decided he wanted to dedicate his life to it, to the moment where he put up his own practice in Harley Street, after moving to London with his family. At the same time, the book briefly describes the methods that were used at the time to cure speech impediments and the progress that was made on the subject. Though this is just a short part of the book, I find it really appealing.
Then there’s a whole chapter dedicated to King George VI (refered to as Albert or Bertie). You get to know about his childhood, military career and marriage, about the ill health from which he suffered, how he was always eclipsed by his elder brother Edward and of course, the problems that his lifelong stammer caused. His duties as Duke of York often included speaking in public, something he dreaded with all his heart and that meant an extremely hard task for being unable to say a few words without getting tongue-tied. He was treated by many specialists, but as none of them could help him, he became even more frustrated. When one day he gave a humiliating speech that was broadcasted not only to the country but to the entire world, it became obvious that something had to be done. And that’s when the stories of Bertie and Lionel get united.
If what you’re looking for in this book is to know exactly the methods that Logue used to help Bertie overcome his stammer, then you will be disappointed. That information remains mostly unknown, so you won’t read much more about it than what you’ve seen in the movie. I think that what this book actually focuses on is the closeness of the relationship between the two men. It may have started as something purely professional, but with time they became really attached, and kept in touch until the end of their lives. Each time a speech had to be given was like a hell for Bertie. It’s not that he just didn’t like it. He hated it and suffered it, so the support he received from his wife Elizabeth and Logue was very important to him. It is also remarkable how hard he worked to overcome his impediment. He would do everything Logue adviced him, and practice night and day to fight his stammer. As Logue himself put it, he was “the plukiest and most determined patient I have ever had”.
The book goes on narrating about his brother Edward’s abdication to the throne and what this unexpected decision meant: Bertie would become King. A King who wasn’t even able to speak to his people? He needed Logue’s help more than ever, and then once again when the dark days of World War II arrived. As you can see, the book covers a much longer period of time than the movie, because as I said before, one is not based on the other. They are about the same topic, however, they’re two different things.
I almost forgot to mention that, at the beginning of each chapter there’s a black and white picture related to the content of it, a detail I love. Moreover, there are some extra photographs of both Lionel and Bertie, handwritten letters they sent to each other, old newspaper articles and an original speech from which the King read, including Logue’s annotations. All these additions to the book make it even more entertaining.
To finish this (maybe too long) review, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the special connection between Logue and Bertie, and the hard fight of a man to overcome a problem we sometimes underestimate. Don’t try to find the movie in this book, I’ll keep repeating that. And also remember, the fact that a book is nonfiction doesn’t mean it is boring. I got so engrossed in it that once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. And may I confess something, I couldn’t help growing fond of Bertie. ☻
– Written by GuadiRC –