Book Review: The King’s Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

The King’s Speech
By Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
Quercus, 2010.

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.

The King’s Speech on Amazon (UK): book and DVD. There are plenty of Amazon customers’ reviews of both book and DVD at these links if you wish to read other opinions of the book (or film).

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The King’s Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

  1. Maxine – An excellent review (as ever). You make such an interesting set of comments about Logue’s treatment approach and about regional accents. I find both of those topics fascinating, and it’s a shame that there isn’t more in the book about the way Logue approached speech therapy. I’d’ve liked to get that “take” on the topic.

    Your point about regional accents and dialects is well-taken, too. There is a balance between the legitimacy of different kinds of speaking patterns, and the importance of being able to communicate one’s message. Interesting stuff!

  2. Particularly appropriate as we learn today that Cheryl Cole is to be unleashed onto US TV in that talent show (forget name). Loads of articles about how Americans will not understand her Geordie accent. I don’t think they’ll have much of a problem, or if they do they can always switch off 😉

  3. “how one man saved the British monarchy” is obviously an exaggeration and I cringed at the tagline. I always find books more engaging than the movie but on a rare occasion, as in this one for you, the movie provides a better interpretation than the book. Off my head I could think of “Slumdog Millionaire”, I thought David Boyle did a good job but the book was trashy.

    Cheryl Cole is all nice and sweet, but not a big fan of her. Did she clinch the deal to be X-factor US judge?

  4. Great review, thanks. Useful to know that the book is a bit light on the speech therapy side of things, as that’s the only aspect which would interest me [(have had my own dealings with salt (speech and language therapy) for my son.]

  5. JoV- apparently she did cinch the deal. She’s a sort of orange colour, but quite pretty. Like you I do not like books of movies (or celeb bios) but I had hopes of this one, and the publisher Quercus is generally reliable. Oh well, live and learn even at my age!

    Laura – yes, it is a pity they did not discuss the salt (good acronym!) more, as I can understand they did not want to write a “kiss and tell” but they could have contrasted the old elocution techniques (I remember we had to have elocution lessons at primary school) to the lack of them nowadays, just to give the book a bit more “bottom”.

  6. Thanks for the review. Films/series with very strong English dialects are usually not shown in the US. On one Graham Norton show an American actor asked a comedien with a particularly strong northern accent if he could speak with an English accent!!!!


  7. I had no idea the movie was taken from a book–I’ve not yet seen the movie, but I have it to watch this weekend finally. I don’t watch much TV so I had to look up Cheryl Cole–interesting about the accent–I would hope most viewers would be savvy enough to be able to understand a British accent but admit really thick dialects can be difficult–I found the language in Trainspotting to be pretty impenetrable–otherwise I find the differences in language fascinating. Too bad about the book–it sounds a little on the dry side.

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