My sister made me start watching The Crown, but I certainly kept watching of my own accord. So it seemed a natural next step to read Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. Published in 2012 to coincide with the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrating 60 years on the throne, Smith's book tries to take the reader behind the public, stoic face of the queen and show that underneath the facade there is a woman who cares deeply about her family and has a dry wit. I found the book generally very interesting and worth reading. It's not as tantalizing as the television show, probably because the author doesn't feel free to present speculation on private moments as fact (I'm looking at you Devil in the White City). The closest it ever really gets to that is mentioning scenes from the movie The Queen and commenting on whether they are likely to be accurate.
The book does have its downsides. First, the last third of it really dragged for me. It's not nearly as interesting once most of the people involved have gotten their acts together. Second, there's not much deep analysis here; instead. it's largely a presentation of what Elizabeth has done, which is probably to some people's taste. Finally, I think my mom really nailed the biggest problem when she said that it's more of a hagiography than biography. Smith is clearly in awe of Elizabeth, and I can't say that's without good reason. But reading her book, it seems as though Elizabeth can do no wrong. The author tries to humanize her by mentioning slight embarrassments but basically acts like there's not even a possibility that Elizabeth acted poorly or was the problem in any given situation. I found the book enjoyable, but I'd recommend you look elsewhere if you want something that admits the Queen may have faults or provides meaningful insights.
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