Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A glimpse into the (fictionalized) life of the Queen Mother

Posted

BOOK REVIEW

Set 'em up.

Who's pouring? Because those cocktails aren't going to make themselves, you know, and that ice isn't going to wait to melt. On the rocks, straight up, blended, what's your poison? Garnish with an orange, lemon, lime or onion. It's Happy Hour somewhere in the world, and in the new book "Do Let's Have Another Drink!" by Gareth Russell, we'll have a royal time.

The world had not yet seen a global war the summer that Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born. Queen Victoria was still the reigning British monarch, riding in a motorcar was a rare thing, and the castle in which Elizabeth was reared was still without electricity. It would be four years before her father would inherit a dukedom and all that went with it; still, the child Elizabeth wanted for nothing.

Like most members of the aristocracy then, she grew up speaking "with an accent later called Received Pronunciation ...." There were parties at the castle Glamis, theatre events with friends, schoolgirl crushes, debutante balls and, at a tea party, she became acquainted with "Bertie," the second son of King Edward. By the time World War I began, Elizabeth was a young woman known for her take-charge attitude and quick-thinking.

Post-war, she and Bertie "bumped into each other at more and more parties," and he fell in love with her. She didn't return the feeling, though he asked her to marry him three times. Queen Mary got involved, as did Elizabeth's own mother, and Elizabeth finally accepted that her future was with Bertie.

For the rest of her life, she hated "That Woman" who plunged her family into the monarchy with three days' notice – although Elizabeth took the mantle of queen with grace, grit and love of country. She raised a future queen, mourned in widowhood, and then seized a joie de vivre that turned her from a reviled, attention-grabbing figure into a beloved Queen Mother.

When she died at age 101, it was her country's turn to mourn.

A drinky-poo. That's what the Queen Mother preferred to call a cocktail, thinking that the latter was "too harsh a word." And if that doesn't delight you, then "Do Let's Have Another Drink!" is not the book for you.

This is the perfect winter kind of book when it's cold outside and you want to be entertained, but learning something might be fun, too. Author Gareth Russell has you covered both ways: there are delights to be had here, in friends' first-person memories and stories that one can imagine Elizabeth, talking about herself and roaring with laughter. Russell's tales offer the light feel of gossip with neither silliness nor salaciousness, and in a nice balance of tales, we learn about the not-so-nice sides of the Queen Mother's personality. Readers will be pleased by the frequency of little-known facts surrounding oft-told stories, exciting tales, and jaw-droppers.

Anglophiles need this book, and so do history lovers. Imagine it: a warm one with a garnish, "Do Let's Have Another Drink!", a comfortable chair, and you're set.

COMPANION BOOK

Here's another celebratory book to check out: "Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails" by Camper English (Penguin Books). It's a great companion to the book above. Cheers!

"Do Let's Have Another Drink! The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother" by Gareth Russell

c.2022, Atria Books

$27.99; 228 pages