“Showing true phlegm, a policemen observed to the Queen that it had been ‘a magnificent piece of bombing, if I may say so, Ma’am’.”
— Marr, Andrew (2011-10-21). The Diamond Queen (Kindle Locations 1361-1362). Macmillan Publishers UK. Kindle Edition.
I find that the name of Andrew Marr is far more connected to television than to writing books, and that has been the case in my mind for a longer period of time due to his ‘History of the World’ and ‘Andrew Marr Show’. Yet, he is foremost a historian so I took up the journey of ‘The Diamond Queen’ with hope in my mind.
Now, to begin with, I do not think that there is a question on the following : Mr Marr is an excellent storyteller by most assessable criteria, but when it comes to writing a book I think his skill-set has left him (or rather, that he has left his writing skills behind). This is not at all to mean that ‘The Diamond Queen’ did not make for an interesting read or that it lacked in some essential quality (unless you maybe make “bookishness” a quality and have works abide by that), but it does mean that this book comes with a set of values one should be warned against.
To not bring any harm on the content of the book, I will be the first to say that a lot of what I read here was very interesting and even if found elsewhere then Elizabeth deserved this book. The stories of the coronation and the jubilees as well as the tale of the Royal Yacht were all well written and put into a grand scheme. The story of the Queen of Tonga waving at people in the rain from the Coronation is an excellent example of this kind of detail that has been attributed in organising this volume.
However, at every moment when I was reading this historical work, I had the feeling that Mr Marr envisioned it as a TV show: that it would be his voice reading it out, and, by god, if someone missed a word or two that he had set into the script! That is not quite how a book should sound to me. The tone of the author being present in a very patronizing way throughout the book is not an endearing quality.
And that is the reason why I wish that Mr Marr had reigned in his own autocratic sense of ‘best’ and ‘worst’ and told the stories as they are. He could have done just as good a job, and with far less subtext — overall, the result would have been better and more thorough, and I think the reader would be more pleased. And, yet, it was not to be…
“…and it was one of those rare moments of optimism. And the Queen looked terrific. She was beautiful, and she had this dashing consort . . . and it was going to get better.”
— Marr, Andrew (2011-10-21). The Diamond Queen (Kindle Locations 2019-2020). Macmillan Publishers UK. Kindle Edition.