The likelihood of you finding “Magnificent Britain” by Michael Murray from a random search of the Kindle Store isn’t great. So I’ve written this post to help you.
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“Magnificent Britain” was the first ebook Michael (my husband) and I published with Kindle Direct and that was back in 2012 at the start of the ebook publishing revolution.
“Magnificent Britain” is a long novel which is ideal if you’re going on holiday and want something to get lost in while you’re soaking up the sun. If Covid restrictions prevent sun-seeking holidays this year then it will be even better for a wet and windy July on the north-east coast. (I’m only joking! Of course the sun will be shining in Scarborough every day you’re there.)
“Magnificent Britain” is a very readable novel but it’s not easy-reading. The themes are complex and challenging and the main protagonists are not the nicest people you’ve ever met.
It is 1971 and Nigel Lush’s official biography of First World War hero, Sir Maurice Brearley, is ready for publication.
Brearley had been a revered establishment figure, arms manufacturer and founder of the Magnificent Britain gardening competition.
At the last minute, Nigel Lush receives some startling and unexpected allegations about Brearley’s conduct at the Battle of Loos.
“The man’s a fraud,” says veteran soldier Leonard Stidges, “a liar and a fraud”.
When confronted with these allegations, Maurice’s widow produces even more extraordinary revelations about her late husband’s behaviour. This places Nigel in a terrible dilemma that forces him into a decision which changes his life forever.
Michael Murray’s epic novel questions the relationship between biography and truth and explores the hypocrisy, class consciousness and prejudice that permeated British society during the Twentieth Century.
Readers should be aware that the novel contains a few scenes of a sexual nature.
If you look at the reviews you’ll see that some readers love “Magnificent Britain” and others really don’t! Here are a few comments from readers who enjoyed the book.
A literary mystery; memorable characters who are all too human live and breathe in a vividly painted landscape, set mainly in Britain during the Seventies, a time when the old school tie network still prevailed. The scene is set as biographer Nigel Lush’s latest (and only official) commission nears publication. His subject, Sir Maurice Brearley, served in the trenches of World War One, was instrumental in arming Britain for World War Two, and in retirement, was the founder of “Magnificent Britain”, an annual “Best in Britain” garden competition. So far, so average. However, Nigel’s last minute meeting with a dying man reveals a serpent in Sir Maurice’s past.
This novel works on three levels. Readers are transported to the grandeur of country estates reminiscent of Brideshead Revisited. The author’s descriptions vividly portrays the splendour of these great houses and gardens. Likewise, the scenes painted of London during the Seventies are wonderfully atmospheric and reminds us of an era when society sought to break free of the staid restrictions of class, social and sexual hypocrisy. Sir Maurice Brearley, recently deceased, together with his much younger (trophy) wife appear to epitomise the old guard. But then Nigel learns of a dreadful crime committed during the First World War, a crime which Sir Maurice helped cover up in order to save his own reputation.
Having clawed his way up from a terrace house in Lewisham, to an apartment in one of London’s grandest squares, on the back of so called “Pop-Biographies”, Nigel has fame and fortune. However, he is convinced that exposing the true nature of Sir Maurice’s sinful past will bring the literary respect he craves; Nigel gets to work as an historical detective, so providing readers with a second theme of mystery.
Paradoxically though, apart from a few close friends, Nigel keeps his own emotions and desires a tightly guarded secret.
For me, this is where “Magnificent Britain” transcends the historical and mystery genres. It holds up a mirror to human frailties. Despite his faults, Nigel becomes very real, with fears of failure and ridicule, combined with ambitions to be accepted as a “serious” writer, and to find personal happiness: These sentiments are universal. The friendship between Nigel’s housekeeper and the support he provides for her daughter is touching and poignant. But now moderate success as an hagiographer and a family man is thrown into jeopardy as Nigel uncovers the truth about “Magnificent Britain”. He is faced with a stark choice: maintain the status quo or attempt to expose Maurice? By keeping quiet about the dreadful truth, Nigel will become an unwilling accomplice to Maurice’s “crimes” and condemned to live with his own lies.
Finally, we hear from Sir Maurice himself, in the form of a diary. In addition to reliving the horror and outrage of WW1, Sir Maurice lays bare his own soul, and there is one final surprise; a completely legitimate twist that I dare any reader to predict. This third timeline added yet another dimension to the novel and marks Michael Murray as a gifted author; one who enables readers to suspend time and enter a different world, and really care about fictional characters who are so true to life, they actually exist.
“Magnificent Britain” is an exceptional novel, one I intend to re-read, and would highly recommend to friends and fellow readers. Amazon review
Why don’t you take advantage of the Free Preview below to try the novel for yourself?
And if you think it’s a book for you, the Buy on Amazon button will take you straight to the “Magnificent Britain” book page from which you can download a copy.
(If you don’t have a Kindle there are free apps for phone, tablet, laptop etc which work just as well. Click this link for more details.)
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