Having enjoyed the film The King’s Speech I decided to read the associated book, written by the grandson of Lionel Logue, George VI’s speech therapist, together with a journalist. The book covers a longer period of time than the film, being a biography of Logue from birth to death and, from his early manhood to his death, of Albert, Duke of York/George VI, rather than the snapshot provided in the film version.
The book is most successful in its portrait of the relationship between the two men, which conveys something of the touching trust between a shy, gentle man growing into his role and his sympathetic therapist so well portrayed in the film. Logue’s early years in Australia and his establishment of “speech therapy” as a discipline are certainly interesting, at a time when elocution was considered to be much more important generally than it is these days — in which regional accents are rightly valued, but, sadly, at the expense of lack of diction to the point of incomprehensibility. Yet the account is not exactly compelling, perhaps because of the “whistle-stop tour” writing style. Later, the potted story of Word War II told via the speeches the king gave during it is also of some interest if you don’t know much about this piece of history, though it might seem superficial to readers who do have such knowledge.
I find most of the book somewhat bland and sycophantic both to the British royal family and to Logue’s family. I’m not interested in reading salacious or private details, but this exceptionally restrained (sanitised?) account of both families does lack colour. I realise, upon reading the book, just how much was made up for the film to provide life – for example there is no hint here that the Duchess of York (the future Queen Elizabeth) first approached Logue to ask him to help her husband (let alone her trouble in operating the lift); nor is there any suggestion that Logue had the Duke jumping round his consulting room while swearing to music! Just sufficient details of Logue’s methods are provided to keep the interest of the reader alive, but I was surprised that the authors had decided not to provide more details of Logue’s treatment strategy, given that they’d decided to keep to such a respectful account of the personalities involved.
In sum, the book is mildly engaging – clearly there was much affection between the king and Logue, and this book, by the use of letters and newspaper articles, captures this relationship between two thoroughly decent chaps very well. On the other hand, though it is clear from the book that much was simply invented for the film, one can’t help feeling that the film provided a deeper emotional resonance, even though it clearly exaggerated many aspects of the king’s speeches for dramatic effect. I cannot end this review without very much taking issue with the subtitle of the book, prominent on the cover: “how one man saved the British monarchy”. That, surely, is going too far.
I purchased my copy of this book.