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Reality reading (with a royal flair)

September 30, 2012

Apart from a five-bedroom Georgian home in Surrey (England), a volunteer career in church bell ringing/flower arranging and an easily inflenced parrot named Darcy, Constance Harding has one great gift: the ability to see things as they aren’t.

A husband who neglects her, an incompetent housekeeper whose knickers tend to nest in said-husband’s study, a bell-ringing buddy with a mysterious crush on a very married woman, a son with a secret that Mummy definitely doesn’t want to hear… oh, it’s just so much easier, and funnier to rise above it all. What Constance does see is that there’s nothing wrong with a little well-meant meddling on behalf of those she loves best--until it starts backfire without the back-up of reality.

A Surrey State of Affairs has one eye-opener after another in store for Ceri Radford’s dotty heroine. And Constance, when the chips are down, has a bit more backbone than even she could predict.

There’s no escaping reality for Elizabeth II. In Richard Brassey’s The Queen, a young Elizabeth tries to have tea incognito at the YWCA in Tottenham Court Road. When told she’d have to carry her own teapot to the table, the princess was quickly recognized—so much for a quiet outing and the blissful freedom of an afternoon’s anonymity.

With only a few hundred words to work with, Brassey charmingly illustrates a balance of big facts (in 2015 Queen Elizabeth will be the Commonwealth’s longest reigning monarch) with personal details (do not touch the corgis!) making The Queen easy for all ages to relate to and a fine tribute in this Jubilee year.

In 2008, reality for the new King of Otuam--a town of 7,000 in Ghana--was a kingdom with no running water, pot-holed roads, limited education for many children, a crumbling palace, no doctor and no public funds to do anything about any of it. A council of ineffective (at best) and corrupt (more the case) advisors were not going to make it easy for King Peggy. But their hopes that as an ex-pat living in Washington, D.C. Peggielene Bartels might turn a blind eye to their dark dealings were quickly dashed when their new ruler decided enough was enough.

With determination and true belief in the potential of her people, King Peggy achieves a royal turnaround in Otuam and creates a shining example of what is possible when one steps up, way up, to the throne.


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