BOOK CLUB: The True Story of Maddie Bright

Click to rate this book!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

Author: Mary-Rose MacColl
ISBN: 978 1 76029 524 0
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: April 2019
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Initially I was unsure whether I liked this novel, because some elements of the plot veer close to cliché; however, in the end I was won over by the complexities and complications of the characters. The strength of “The True Story of Maddie Bright” lies in vividly drawn, interesting and empathetic characters. The plot, while interesting, is largely familiar; but the characters will keep you reading.

In 1920s Australia the teenage Maddie is desperate for a job – any job – to help feed her family. To her astonishment, she finds herself helping Prince Edward with his correspondence while he tours Australia. Soon, however, the romantic and wide-eyed Maddie is involved with people far more worldly than she, and she is quickly in over her head.

Another strand of the novel takes us to meet Maddie again, now in her 70s and living in Australia. There’s a lot of interest in finding out how her life got from there to here, and what the connections are between these two strands and the third: set largely in England, Victoria is a mature and experienced journalist who’s been asked to travel to Australia to interview Maddie.

Young Maddie and old Maddie are recognisably the same person; intelligent, caring, straight forward, and sometimes blisteringly honest. She’s a character readers will care about, and I genuinely wanted to know what happened to her. It becomes clear very early on that something notable is going to happen to her in the 1920s, although it’s not initially clear what the impact will be and how it influences the person she becomes and the life she leads between the two time periods we’re following.

MacColl does a great job of conveying the historical elements of the novel – notably the tour of Australia by the real Prince Edward VIII. These are vividly depicted, and although as far as I know all specific incidents in the book are fiction, she captures the flavour of real events and emotions.

To some extent the novel is an exploration of what you owe other people: your family, your friends, your lovers, the people you meet casually. It’s subtle about it, but it will make you stop and think. How do you treat the people you come across? Would you make the same decisions as the characters?

The novel also touches lightly on a very current issue: who decides what’s true and what’s “fake news”? Where views conflict, who has the power to determine what becomes the “genuine” narrative? I suspect that MacColl started writing this novel before these issues became central to the daily news, but it certainly adds currency to the narrative. There’s an echo of MeToo as well – again, probably not deliberately, but it’s hard to read the novel without reflecting on current events.

In the end I really enjoyed “The True Story of Maddie Bright”, mostly due to the characters. I enjoyed spending time with them, and wanted to know what was going to happen to almost all of them. Only two or three are (deliberately) less appealing. Most are people you’d be happy to know. I particularly recommend this novel to people who enjoy strong characters.

This guest review was submitted by Lorraine Cormack, one of our long-time Beauty and Lace Club members. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Lorraine.

You can follow Mary-Rose MacColl on Facebook and her Website.

The True Story of Maddie Bright is available now through Allen & Unwin and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading The True Story of Maddie Bright so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

19 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The True Story of Maddie Bright

  1. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read The true story of Maddie Bright.

    Maddie Bright is revealed to us over 3 time periods – 1920, 1981 and 1997. In 1920 she becomes a part of the staff of HRH Prince Edward, becoming involved in the Prince and the other members of his staff touring Australia.

    In 1981 amongst other world events we learn Maddie wrote a best selling novel of the Great War, Autumn Leaves, and there is a chance of a follow up novel. In 1997 the elderly Maddie is looking to meet with a journalist, Victoria Byrd, about Autumn Leaves and the follow up against the background of other events. We learn about Victoria’s life and …. things develop from there.

    This is an intriguing book and story and I will honest and say I found the multi characters and time periods to be a challenge to enjoying the story. However as the story evolved things improved! The twist at the end is amazing!

    Well worth a a read! Highly recommended.

  2. The True Story of Maddie Bright is Mary-Rose MacColl’s sixth novel. Having read and enjoyed Swimming Home I was keen to read this novel.
    The character Maddie, referred to in the title, is a seventeen year old girl in Australia in 1920 when she secures a role on the staff of the Prince of Wales during his tour of Australia. She joins the royal train as a servant but is immediately promoted to working on the Prince’s correspondence, mainly because of the reputation of her father who is a poet.
    I did find the story a little hard to get into, it jumps around from 1920, to 1981 to 1997 and several times I found myself double checking where in the timeline we were. In addition the novel also features extracts from Maddie’s novel Autumn Leaves and that contributed a little to my slight confusion at first. However once I got into this novel I thoroughly enjoyed it. It features two of the British Royal Family’s most loved (and hated) members of the 20th Century – Edward, Prince of Wales who abdicated and Diana Princess of Wales. The connection with Diana is distant, she is not an active character in the novel, but the Prince of Wales is and at times I felt sorry for him and at times I was appalled by his behaviour, he is portrayed at times as mentally unstable and is bullied but then in return he bullies others.
    Readers are unlikely to be too surprised with some of the things that happen to Maddie while on the Royal Train and the results but despite that I was drawn into the novel and struggled to put it down.
    The other main female character is Victoria Byrd – a London based journalist in her 30s, we meet her as she learns of Princess Diana’s death and is sent to Paris to cover the story. Her situation is complicated and in some ways aligned with Diana’s and it is interesting to read of her reaction to intrusion from the paparazzi, as a journalist they are her colleagues. Victoria is a little lost and looking for stability in her life and because of this makes a bad relationship decision which everyone but her can see.
    I was a little disappointed at how quickly the story was resolved, from being quite complicated with lots of loose ends they were all suddenly tied up in one phone call, to me this felt very rushed and I would have liked Victoria’s time in Australia to go a little slower before we were given the conclusion on a plate. Perhaps I was disappointed as I was enjoying the book so much.
    Having now enjoyed two of Mary-Rose MacColl’s novels I think I will be looking to add her other ones to my reading list. Thanks to the Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this very enjoyable novel.

  3. It took a long time to get into this book.I am not a fan of many storylines. However I persevered and quite enjoyed it.

  4. I really enjoyed The True Story of Maddie Bright and will be investigating other titles by this author.
    The book is richly detailed and well researched. Spanning three time lines and with three strong female characters, I loved the happy ending which I wasn’t expecting and found the characters to be very believable. 4 and a half stars from me.

  5. I was kept guessing right up until the end. To start with I wondered how all the characters were connected and then I started to believe that I knew where this story was going but each time I thought that I was proved wrong.
    This story takes us from the 1920’s to the 1980’s and on to the 1990’s.
    We are introduced to Maddie Bright who is excited about her new job as a serving girl. Not just for anyone but for the Prince of Wales on his Royal tour of Australia. Through chance she ends up with a much better job then being a serving girl. She gets to meet Prince Edward and a life that has never been available to her before starts to open up. In time Maddie learns that things are not always as they seem.

    I really enjoyed reading this book and loved that it was a good 490 odd pages. For me the bigger the book the better even though life has been rather hectic lately and I had to keep putting this book down. When I was away from my book I found I would be thinking about Maddie who at times I will admit frustrated me for her slightly meddling ways in trying to force The Prince’s Press Secretary, Helen and The Prince’s closest friend Rupert, to declare their love for each other. But even so we know that Maddie was always coming from a good place in her heart and only wanted to help.

    This is not a book filled with airy fairy Romance its more a story of a young woman trying to find her way in life and her desire to help her family financially sees her thrust into a World she knows little of but is soon to learn. There are highs and lows.

  6. Loved this. I didn’t want to finish.
    Initially I found the different time lines confusing but soon got into them. The 2 main characters and their families had different connections with 2 members of the royal family and other characters in the story and their stories gradually came together.
    I did wonder if Prince Edward was still alive if some of the things attributed to him could have been said.
    I also listened to the Conversations podcast with the author and found it interesting that parts of her incredible life appear in the story.
    After reading this, I am going to read her previous book, For A Girl

  7. As I settled into this intriguing read, I started to question as to why I am positive in every selection that comes my way from Beauty and Lace. It then occurred that I do choose somewhat. I do put some thought into my responses to each month’s email. I have a substantial collection on royalty and quite a knowledge of the real-life participants in this book. I was certainly attracted to this title with the initial blurb. I am not disappointed. A tale that jumps around three main time periods is exactly how my mind works and I enjoyed MacColl’s treatment. The linkages of the 1920 Australian visit of David, Prince of Wales with the engagement in 1981 of Charles, Prince of Wales to Diana and her tragic death in 1997 are handled masterfully. I did not cry until page 486 but waterworks erupted at this point. I think it was a culmination of the entire story and I was caught by surprise with the final revelation. That royal 1920 visit covered enormous distances by trains and ship and Australia shines as the backdrop to this part of the book. There are telling incidents of poor treatment of women across the decades in question. The manipulation and the roles of journalism are questioned. Rupert’s sharing of the loss of his precious carved toy horse was a poignant explanation of the expectations of service to the Crown. Maddie Bright is an authentic literary heroine who faced horrible experiences among extraordinary ones and I loved that in her old age, some rewards came her way. I am left with a comfortable feeling that Victoria and Andrew may have a happy future. I tend to identify with incidents in my reading and was thrilled to hear the description of, “the enormous church at Rosalie”. I was evacuated to that church while honeymooning during the 1974 flood in Brisbane. I give five stars to this pleasing read.

  8. I was blessed with the opportunity to read this book by beauty and lace book club and the publishers.

    At first I found it confusing, jumping from different time lines, and different characters, it was hard to keep track and I had to keep going back to what I’d read before.

    Not to say it wasn’t interesting, but about halfway through I finally got track of the 3 different time lines and reading the book went so much more smoothly from there,

    Maddie Bright begins working as a serving girl, well for 5 minutes before the press secretary realises Maddie could be used better elsewhere. She works for Prince Edward of Wales,.

    They develop a sort of relationship which seems very sweet at times, but at other more sinister moments you can see how young and immature Maddie is, and how Prince Edward took advantage of her.

    Maddie writes a book about Helen and Rupert , their love and their journey. She never reveals her identity. Many years later journalist is asked to interview the author, so she can be revealed, the story that comes out is so much better than Victoria (journalist) expects.

  9. This is not normally the type of book that I would read and in the beginning I was very confused, mainly because I didnt read the back summary of the book and so was really confused over why there were multiple threads happening with no real linkage.

    In saying this, the book was really well written with great character development and each characters story line is interesting, funny and endearing.

    This was a great book to see the twists and turns of the Royal family, journalists and the people who interact with them.

    An entertaining book.

  10. First of all that again to beauty and lace for another great book.

    I was lucky enough to be chosen to read and review The True story of Maddie Bright. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and didn’t want to put the book down once I started. I hadn’t read anything prior to this book for a bout a month and this bought me back into reading focus again.

    I love how the book jumped between the different decades and the twists and turns. Some events I guessed and others left me guessing right until the end.

    My only negative was the way it ended I felt I needed just a little bit more to the ending. But definitely worth and read and I would recommend to anyone that enjoys some romance, sadness, drama and scandal.

  11. An entertaining story beautifully told!

    In 1920, young Maddie Bright is selected to assist Prince Edward’s team on his royal tour in Australia. Her writing ability is recognised but she ends up getting involved in a lot more than she first bargained for. Eventually, in 1981, Maddie has written her first book which is based on her perception of two lovely characters she met while on the tour and the novel is a huge success. In 1997, Victoria Byrd is a journalist based in London who has been asked to interview Maddie as there is talk of her second novel being released.

    This is a fictional story but is based on historical elements that are true – Prince Edward’s Australian tour in 1920 and there are also connection references to Lady Diana’s marriage and ultimately, her tragic death. Admittedly, it was a little hard at first switching between three different time periods (1920, 1981 and 1997) and I was a tad bit lost in the beginning, but my persistence was well worth the effort as the novel progressed. I warmed very much to the realistic characters and felt them truly come alive.

    Thank you very much Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to seeking out other novels from this talented author.

  12. Australian author, Mary-Rose MacColl, brings us her latest historical fiction novel, The True Story of Maddie Bright. My initial interest lay in the title as I believed it was based on Maddie Bright but this was misleading. MacColl has stated in the Author Note that while she did research Edward, Prince of Wales, the other characters are fictional. While I was worried that this would spoil my enjoyment of the novel, this was quickly unfounded. MacColl has created a novel that draws the reader into the lives of two women across three different timelines; 1920, 1981 and 1997. The mysterious, Autumn Leaves, is also entwined between the different years. Numerous themes that are relevant to society, despite the times, are raised but the underpinning theme across all timelines is the royals. Time has not faded our fascination.

    In 1920 and 1981, the main protagonist is Maddie Bright. The year 1920 introduces the reader to the naïve and trusting seventeen year old girl. Maddie comes from a family that is struggling after the war. While her brothers did not survive the Great War, her father has come back a different man. MacColl sensitively yet honestly portrays PTSD and the effects it had on family members. To help her family out in their time of need, Maddie gets a job as a serving girl on the Royal Australian Tour of Prince of Wales, Edward. When it is discovered that her father is a writer, Maddie is upgraded to press secretary, responding to the many letters that the Prince receives. While it is clear that Maddie has a talent for writing, it is less clear that things are not quite right with the Prince. Like the slow burn attraction between Maddie and the Prince, it is only obvious with time that things are not what they seem. Her work colleague and close friend, Helen, is wise beyond her years and warns Maddie to be careful. With youth and optimism on her side, will Maddie heed Helen’s warning? With themes of PTSD, war, death, family, secrets and royalty, history is set to repeat itself in 1997.

    In 1981, Maddie is a woman well into her 90s. She has made her choices as a woman on the brink of adulthood and lives with the consequences every day. Maddie’s experiences on the tour had lead to her writing her first novel, Autumn Leaves, based on her time as press secretary. An honest and discreet woman, Maddie has only told one person, her alcoholic neighbour, Ed, the truth of what occurred all those decades ago. Even though Maddie is an independent woman, the importance of friendship for young and old is evident. Now Maddie is ready to write the sequel, Winter Skies, as she watches Diana prepare to marry Prince Charles. With her secrets held close to her heart, Maddie knows exactly what Diana is walking into when she becomes a part of the royal family.

    It is 1997 and Princess Diana is dead. Victoria is a journalist covering Diana’s death. An ethical and hardworking career woman, Victoria begins to question her job. Through Victoria, MacColl delves into the dark side of the press, leaving the reader pondering. Victoria is also in a relationship. It is not an ordinary relationship as she is committed to movie star, Ben. While everything appears to be perfect on the surface, Victoria is hiding her own secrets from friends and family. During this tumultuous time in her life, Maddie requests Victoria to interview her. With rumours of the sequel, Victoria cannot say no, leading her to discover she shares an extraordinary link with Maddie herself.

    The True Story of Maddie Bright is one to put on the TBR shelves of historical fiction buffs.

  13. I find this book incredibly hard to get into. It’s intertwined story lines kept getting me lost and I often found I had to go back and reread parts to understand what was happening. Reading it in bits didn’t help either.

    Thankfully I read the second half of the book over an afternoon and all of the story lines all of a sudden made sense and I was able to see the story as a whole.

    It’s not something I would have normally chosen, but I’m glad I stuck to it as it’s well written and as a whole story, it’s both compelling and moving.

  14. Thanks again to Beauty and Lace, A & U for the opportunity to read Mary- Rose MacColl’s – The true story of Maddie Bright.
    I found this book, at first to be quite challenging and confusing, until I got a third of the way through and worked out what was going on, how the time periods and characters were all connected. I am glad I persevered as I really enjoyed reading it.
    With current media hype over the Royal Family still to this day, it makes you question how much is truth and how much is sensationalized to keep you wanting more

  15. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the pleasure of reviewing this book,

    I knew I’d love this book when a much older Maddie asks young Andrew if he’s read Autumn Leaves and Andrew answers “I don’t read much” and Maddie’s response is “Well, you might as well not bother living then” I couldn’t agree more and knew I was onto a winner.

    I was reminded and instantly brought back to that unforgettable dreadful day when I heard the distressing news that Princess Diana had died, I remembered exactly where I was, what I was doing, how I felt, how others around me were reacting, the memory and aftermath of that event etched in my mind forever. I liked Victoria’s recounting of when she travelled to Paris with her work colleague and the comparison, she made between the shambolic hurriedly stitched together French guard and the British contingent in perfect formation, at the aerodrome preparing Dianna for her final flight home.

    This book has everything, early baby hatches – foundling wheels, war torn London, intertwined love stories over decades, rags to riches, deception, me-too, stolen innocence, Maddie’s father suffering PTSD, opportunities, right place, right time, true friendships, loyalty, duty and power, domestic violence, trains, ships, automobiles, and even a possum ridden lop-sided house.

    Such wonderful characters, it did have me wondering and hoping whilst I read the book that all their stories like individual crocheted squares, would come together to form a beautiful patchwork quilt in the end which they did in a way that I did not suspect.

    It is mentioned in the rear of the book and also I tuned into a Podcast where Mary-Rose talked about her fascinating inspiration for the book came from reading a newspaper article on a visit to Australia in 1920 near Bridgetown in Western Australia, that Prince Edward’s train carriage derailed and the front two coaches, including the one the royal party was overturned and slid down an embankment, after the driver had just stopped to avoid hitting a cow, and despite being thrown from their seats thank fully none of the passengers were injured.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I definitely look forward to adding more books by Mary Rose MacColl to my TBR pile

  16. The True Story of Maddie Bright – by Mary-Rose MacColl

    Initially, I found this book hard to get into and it wasn’t keeping me motivated to keep reading, however I kept going and I’m glad I did. I liked Maddie’s personality and due to that I was eager to follow her story.

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning a more detailed history of the royal family specifically Prince Edward, I found it fascinating.

    With ‘fake news’ so prevalent in today’s media, this book continues to get you thinking about this and wondering just what you can trust.

    Overall, I would recommend this book as an intriguing and interesting read.

  17. I really enjoyed this book set over a long life time of significant events starting on a train with royalty. A story the probes you never know what’s coming next. It will keep you guessing until the end a very interesting read.
    Thank you beauty and lace and Allen &Unwin this was a great read

  18. Thank you Beauty & Lace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to review ‘The true story of Maddie Bright’.

    I will admit it was initially a little challenging to work between each time period, however once I read on further, I started to enjoy the myriad of characters, from Maddie’s next door neighbour Ed, to Helen and Rupert whom she worked on the Royal Tours with. All of the characters were moving and intriguing to say the least. I really felt that a strong message of humans needing human connection whether you’re young or old came through in the story line.

    This book also had me transporting right back to 1997 and the untimely death of Princess Diana, and reading the events unfolding in the book, were exactly as they were back then.
    I am so glad I got through the initial confusion and read the book in its entirety to discover the wonderful characters and compelling story lines.
    and highly recommend this book. I look forward to reading more from Mary-Rose acColl.

  19. Thank you to A&U and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review The True Story of Maddie Bright. At first I was a little unsure if it was really my type of book but once I started reading, I was hooked. The historical aspect based on real life people had me googling and being intrigued by the members of the Royal Family. I wanted to like Prince Edward and did so at the beginning but spoiler alert – I now have a lot more dismal view of him. Whether or not it is based in truth, well…

    I messaged the author at one critical point as I reached a cliffhanger and had to go work!! What a conundrum! A great book which as other reviewers have mentioned took me back to the days of 1997 and the tragic death of Princess Diana.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *