Saturday, 26 March 2011

Book review: The King’s Speech

It’s hard not to compare the drama in the Oscar-winning film, while reading The King’s Speech. There is drama in the tumultous backdrop of a collapsing Britain as much as in the un-happening life of the introverted Bertie (Albert), wrought with quite an un-royal handicap — speech impediment.

Bertie seems to be aware — he cannot be the monarch. Britain is ‘a land fit for heroes’ and he is not one. Fading in comparison to his brother’s charms, Bertie is but content carrying out his role as the Duke of York. But as Edward gives in to his wayward ways, Bertie emerges as the better son. And with a family of a devoted wife and two princesses, he is suddenly looked upon as the ‘ideal’ King after his father dies.

Public speeches don’t help the situation, microphones manifest fear. Bertie faces a crowd like an accused faces the guillotine. His inability to pronounce ‘King’ reflects his fear of attaining the responsibility of being one. His wife (instrumental in speech therapist Lionel Logue’s entry) is his foil. When Logue takes over, we know that like Aristotle, Virgil and Darwin, Bertie too shall defeat his stammer.

Complete with end notes, letters, articles and photos, the book is a work of two thorough researchers. The proletariat Logue’s green scrap book with letters exchanged with the bourgeois King bear witness to their bromance, untainted even by the years of occasional communication.

However, perhaps because of subconscious bias, Mark Logue has strictly sketched his grandfather (Lionel) in monotone, unlike Bertie whose metamorphosis from being a shy Duke to a confident King has been traced well, even while documenting a chapter-wise narration much in the manner of a history book.

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