ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Conradi is a distinguished British author, journalist, and literary biographer known for his insightful works on notable figures. He has made significant contributions to the biography and literary analysis genres through his well-researched, engaging books. His works include in-depth explorations of the lives of writers like Iris Murdoch and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Conradi’s approach to literary biography is more subtle and multifaceted than just recounting events; he explores his subjects’ mental and emotional landscapes. His proficiency in tracing the author’s life through their experiences, beliefs, and writing exemplifies the complex relationship between the writer and their work. The coauthored book, The King’s Speech, is a real-life illustration of it.
Mark Logue’s grandfather, Lionel Logue, was a speech therapist who helped King George VI with his stuttering. He collected his grandfather’s letters to the King, undertaking an extensive research to learn more about the time when these two men led parallel lives.
SYNOPSIS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
The King’s Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi relates the struggles of King George VI with a speech impediment. The book delves deep into how the Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, helped him overcome this handicap. The book also chronicles the lives of Bertie (King George VI) and Lionel and how the two get intertwined during crucial periods in British history.
Bertie was born in December 1895. He and his siblings were primarily raised by nurses and governesses, resulting in a strained connection with his biological parents. Constant comparisons with his socially able sibling resulted in Bertie developing a horrible stutter. He even struggled academically at the Naval Academy. He had a hard time speaking in public and fell sick often. As an adult, Bertie gradually became his father’s favorite, while his older brother earned a reputation for his argumentative nature and a penchant for socializing. Even though Bertie’s speech impediment continued to be an issue, he managed to meet and marry Elizabeth, much to his father’s delight. He grew anxious when he needed to address a crowd.
Bertie is publicly shamed after delivering a speech. Logue feels he can be of help to the hapless Bertie. For his part, Bertie isn’t very hopeful after multiple failures with various doctors. However, he sets up a meeting with Logue after Elizabeth’s request.
Lionel Logue was an elocutionist born in Adelaide in 1880. His interest in speech therapy grew over the years. In 1924, the Logue family moved to Britain, where he became renowned for his speech-therapy skills. He came up with innovative techniques to treat speech impediments. When he and Bertie crossed paths, Bertie saw a remarkable improvement in his speech.
The abdication crisis in 1936 propelled Bertie to the throne as King George VI. His stammer assumed even greater significance, especially with the onset of the Second World War. Logue helped the King prepare for his coronation speech and the subsequent radio broadcasts. Their hard work led to successful speeches by the King.
As the War intensified, Bertie’s role became more demanding. Logue’s assistance remained crucial as they navigated constant challenges of wartime communication. The book portrays how their communication helped at crucial junctures, as the D-Day preparations and Christmas speeches.
The book concludes with the death of King George VI in 1952 and Logue’s passing in 1953. Logue’s impact on helping King George VI overcome his stutter and fulfill his royal duties is quite endearing.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THE KING’S SPEECH
The King’s Speech is a beautiful book about the interaction between a teacher and the quiet, timid guy he helps push out into the role he is expected to play. In this case, there is much more at play than just social standing.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT THE KING’S SPEECH
Unfortunately, as a book, The King’s Speech is nothing but a chronological account. The book could have done with the details of the speech therapies used to help the King overcome his handicap.
The King, in the words of America’s Time magazine, was the ‘most famed contemporary stammerer’ in the world.
People who have these defects can, in most cases, sing quite easily and shout at games without any difficulty; but the ordinary procedure of buying a train ticket or asking to be directed in the street, is untold agony.
The development of speech therapy over the course of The King’s Speech is fascinating, to say the least. It is captivating to follow the progress of a royal family member’s struggle with speech impairment. That said, the book lacks the glitz to match its initial promise.
A reverential admirer of words, Madhu loves watching them weave their bewitching magic on cozy afternoons.