QUEEN AND COUNTRY: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II

William Shawcross, Author . Simon & Schuster $35 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2676-9

Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, this lavishly illustrated biography attempts to portray the monarch in both her personal and public capacities. Noted journalist Shawcross (Sideshow, etc.), who had the cooperation of the Palace, has set himself a difficult task. Those covering the royals have to navigate between two extremes: the Scylla of salacious gossip and the Charybdis of dull, "officially sanctioned" Palace propaganda. Shawcross could certainly never be accused of salaciousness. The Elizabeth II he describes is unflappable and devoted to her duties as queen. Is Elizabeth, as many of the tabloids claim, a coldly detached and unfeeling individual? Shawcross thinks not. "[C]lose friends... say that though she might not reach out and hug you, she will be thoughtful and concerned about your welfare, and she is a good listener." Shawcross gives us the history of Elizabeth's long reign. As the times have changed, Shawcross contends, so has Elizabeth: "The Queen has not sat back and let the tide of events surge over her. She has responded to the demand for greater openness." Shawcross details the British tabloid wars that have raged since the 1980s and tells how the royal family has increasingly been the subject of invasive and titillating press scrutiny. The book opens and closes with the fallout from Princess Diana's death. This rather reverential biography should please fans of the British monarchy, although it won't exactly satisfy the public's rabid appetite for gossip. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (May 3)

Forecast:This has royal approbation and Shawcross's good name, but the big sales will probably to go Robert Lacey's bio, Monarch (to be reviewed in coming weeks). (Another jubilee title, The Monarchy: An Oral Biography of Elizabeth II, by Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald Strober, was published by Broadway in January. See also notes below for more jubilee-related titles.)

Reviewed on: 04/08/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-7710-8056-2
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