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Happy New Year, bookconscious readers. Over the holidays I picked out a couple of books from my long term “to read” list and checked them out of the library. Nothing on two week loan (new books), nothing too challenging (no Tolstoy), just good reads I could dip into when I had a few minutes.

The first was The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue and Peter Conrad. Mark is the son of Antony Logue, who was Lionel Logue’s youngest son. Lionel Logue was the speech therapist portrayed by Geoffrey Rush in the film The King’s Speech. In the book, Mark Logue explains that although he was born long after his grandfather died, he had grown up with photos of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in his home, but had never really thought about why.

After public interest in Logue resulted in a BBC documentary and then filmmaker Iain Canning  planned to produce the famous recent film about Logue’s role in helping King George VI overcome his stutter, Mark Logue began to wonder about his grandfather’s life and explored family papers. He tracked down parts of the archive that were missing from his own father’s collection and with Peter Conrad, wrote this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lionel Logue was a gentle, kind, compassionate man whose work helped speech therapy become a respected profession.  I also enjoyed learning about his wife Myrtle and their family, and about the royal family. I was impressed that Logue never tried to exploit his royal connection or profit from it.  And as always, I’m impressed by the spirit of the British during WWII and their national effort to “keep calm and carry on” during the war. Also I admired Logue’s “life learning” approach to speech therapy — much of what he practiced he’d learned by experience as an elocution teacher and orator, and from his understanding of the psychological importance of confidence.

The book does clear up some things the film muddied a bit. For example, by the time he became king, the Duke of York (as he was known prior to his brother’s abdication) had been working with Logue for ten years. He first sought his help before his father, King George V, sent him on a royal tour to Australia, where he had to give an important speech at a time when Australians were questioning their place in the empire.  The improvement in his speaking was so dramatic and swift that the trip was a huge success, but he continued to work with Logue, faithfully doing the exercises he prescribed and working on the wording of speeches.

A period passed where he saw Logue less but then before the coronation, they began steady work again, with Logue helping with the many war speeches, including the key speech portrayed in the film version, and spending most Christmases helping the king prepare for this annual broadcast.

If you want a light historical read and a really heart-warming human interest story, I’d recommend The King’s Speech.

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