Abdicationby Juliet Nicolson
From critically acclaimed historian Juliet Nicolson comes a glorious debut novel set in 1936 London about secrecy, tumultuous love, and a king and his subjects torn between public duty and private desire.
The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch,/b>/i>/b>/i>/b>
From critically acclaimed historian Juliet Nicolson comes a glorious debut novel set in 1936 London about secrecy, tumultuous love, and a king and his subjects torn between public duty and private desire.
The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.
During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach.
Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences.
Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May.
May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.
“In historian Nicolson's first fiction, a Remains of the Day ambience is played out against the backdrop of George V's death and Edward VIII's ascension to the throne.... Nicolson writes knowledgeably of weekends in the country, swank parties and the ironic-supercilious posture of the British upper class. The novel rings with authenticity... a period drama ready to be adapted by the BBC and rerun on PBS.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Richly detailed and set in a dynamic time and place.” —Publishers Weekly
“Abdication beautifully evokes the troubled thirties, with its high-stakes politics, easy money, and social tensions. Juliet Nicolson is an outstanding historian who brings the full panoply of her talent and research to the task of recreating the abdication crisis and its effect on Britain. This is a wonderful novel.” –Amanda Foreman, award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in America’s Civil War
“Anyone interested in the 1930s will revel in this richly detailed slant on the abdication crisis.” —Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The American Heiress
“With her keen eye for historical detail and intimate knowledge of England’s social mores, Juliet Nicolson weaves a juicy and evocative tale of lives caught in the midst of one of Britain’s great modern dramas, the abdication of King Edward VIII.” —Tina Brown, editor-in-chief, The Daily Beast and Newsweek.com
“Fans of The King’s Speech will love Nicolson’s racy historical drama, set in 1936 against the backdrop of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII’s love affair.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Anyone requiring a post— Downton Abbey fix could do worse than this beguiling, Thirties-era, class-conscious soap opera, written by the granddaughter of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. Enthusiastically recommended.” —Library Journal (starred)
“Nicolson's eye for period detail is spot-on, and her characterisations of the main players are superb.... This is a delightful story of a friendship forged by the drama of the Abdication and the approaching war; ideal for the intelligent deckchair.” —The Times (London)
“...[an] imaginative and warmly woven first novel.... In every nuance of Abdication, Nicolson’s subtle layering of relationships attests to her innate facility in capturing even the smallest details of class-regimented British society during its last dance of self-indulgence before the cataclysm of World War II.” —BookReporter.com
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Read an Excerpt
On a gloomy February afternoon in 1936 a young woman of nineteen years brought the dark blue Rolls-Royce slowly to a halt. Managing the mahogany steering wheel with surprising ease for someone so slight, May Thomas parked the car outside the country home of a middle-aged man and his married mistress.
The journey from London to Sunningdale had taken about an hour and shortly before reaching the town May edged the car along the boundary of Windsor Great Park before turning off the road into an unmarked opening. She was enjoying the unaccustomed feeling of stylish authority given to her by the new chauffeur’s uniform of blue trousers, jacket and matching navy blue cap with its shiny patent leather peak. Driving through a pair of wide open and crisply painted white gates, she took the car slowly up a rising avenue of plump-trunked oak trees and thick rhododendron bushes. There were signs that substantial clearances had been made within the undergrowth but in some places, where the tangle of branches at the top formed a thick canopy, the snow had failed to make its way down into this melancholy landscape.
As the sand-coloured house—although no one could actually call it that—appeared round a bend, lit up by an ingenious series of concealed electric floodlights, May was relieved that she was only dropping off her passenger and would not be required to stay the night. The series of battlements surrounding the central tower that protruded from a mass of crenelated buildings were very un-house like; and yet the building’s diminutive size made it ineligible for the status of castle. May was reminded of a picture she had seen in one of her brother Sam’s old cowboy books, a turreted fort out of which an invading Red Indian leapt complete with bow and arrow.
A woman in a slim-fitting and tightly belted black dress with long sleeves and a white collar was standing at the front door. She looked a bit like a nurse or a school matron. As May eased the car slowly alongside her, the woman stepped forward and opened the car door.
“Evangeline, my dear!” said the woman in a hard-edged accent that sounded like coins rubbing up against each other in a pocket. “You have no idea how pleased I am to see you!”
May’s passenger was struggling to get out of the car. In fact, Miss Evangeline Nettlefold was wedged between the back seat and the back of the front passenger seat and the harder she struggled to get free the more stuck she became. A little dog, a Pekinese that had been sitting on his owner’s lap throughout the journey, appeared to be having an asthma attack and when May ran round to the other side of the car to release her passenger she saw that the dog had drooled onto a patch of Miss Nettlefold’s grey wool skirt, leaving a black stain on the front panel.
After an awkward tussle between May, Miss Nettlefold and a now frothing dog, the large woman found herself suddenly catapulted into the open air.
“Oh, Wallis, you know me! Too many delicious English cookies for my own good!” she apologised, in a surprisingly unflustered and rather beautiful voice. Her chubby cheeks resembled pink gobstoppers. “But how divine it is to be here at last.”
And with a wave to May, she turned towards the front door, her fur coat flapping open in the wind. The two women immediately fell into conversation, glancing briefly backwards in May’s direction before vanishing inside. Miss Nettlefold’s arm had been tucked tightly into that of her hostess, a woman with an unnaturally wide smile, a doll-like body, high shoulders and an enormous head. She reminded May of someone, although May could not quite identify the memory. After several deep breaths of cold winter air May returned to the car, removed her cap and shook her hair free. She was about to resume her place at the wheel when she noticed the flat square package on the front seat. The brown paper parcel was imprinted with a store logo, a sharp-edged four leaf clover separating the letters “H” and “K.”
“I brought this all the way from Baltimore,” Miss Nettlefold had told May when they set off from St. John’s Wood that afternoon. “Can you put it somewhere safe for me? Knowing my luck, if I find a space for it here in the back with me and Wiggle, I will probably sit on it, and records have a funny way of snapping when sat on, don’t you find?”
With the parcel safely under one arm May returned to the front door and pulled the bell. A black-suited butler answered the ring. He was as compact and elegant as a Russian Sobranie.
“Sorry to trouble you, sir, but Miss Nettlefold has left something in the car.”
“I will make sure she gets it immediately,” he replied with unequivocal authority. But May felt uneasy. From early on in her life she had discovered that trust must be earned.
“If you don’t mind,” she said, raising her voice to a level beyond the tremble that threatened to unseat her resolve, “Miss Nettlefold left the package in my care and I would like to make sure she gets it myself.”
“I assure you, Miss, that if you give the package to me it will be delivered safely to Miss Nettlefold.”
But May kept her composure, holding on to the parcel tightly and wishing she had remembered to put her cap back on her head. A short silence elapsed between them.
“Oh well, you better follow me,” the cigarette-slim butler snapped, before moistening his lips with a thin tongue.
Walking a pace behind the stiff back ahead of her, May followed the butler into a short passageway, which billowed out into a high-ceilinged hall painted white, the starkness relieved by eight bright yellow leather chairs positioned in each of the octagonal corners. May’s hard-soled driving shoes clicked in echoing reply to those of the butler as they crossed the black and white marble floor. A pretty maid in a pink uniform, a lace-edged hat perched on her blond hair put her head round a corner.
“Excuse me, Mr. Osborne,” she said. “Miss Spry is on the telephone and wants to know whether it would be convenient to come over later and do the flowers for the weekend?”
“Tell her to check with Mrs. Mason if that will suit. We don’t want the housekeeper upset. You know what she’s like,” Mr. Osborne replied abruptly and crossed the hall ahead of May.
A cloying sweetness came from the vases of lilies that sat on tall plinths at every few feet. A faint sound of barking could be heard from behind a closed door far away. May felt unnaturally hot. There was no warning, no time to ask for a mirror to check her newly bobbed hair, no time to think before she found herself at an open doorway and saw two faces turned towards her in surprise.
“Why May? Whatever are you doing here, my dear? Is something wrong?”
But the butler spoke before May could answer.
“Forgive us the interruption, Madam. Your driver insisted on bringing this parcel to you herself.”
“Please bring her in, Osborne,” Miss Nettlefold’s friend instructed. “And by the way, have you ordered a car to meet the hairdresser from the train?”
The butler’s previously impassive expression reflected irritation. “I have of course,” he retorted, adding “Madam” in afterthought.
Bending over a tray laid with china cups as thin as eggshells, he poured out the pale tea before offering Miss Nettlefold a plate of miniature salmon sandwiches.
May wondered what sort of impression she was giving in her dark suit, her fringe still clamped damply onto her forehead. While reminding herself in future to remove her cap when driving, she struggled to place the familiar face of Miss Nettlefold’s friend. Had she seen her in a famous painting, maybe? Miss Nettlefold took a step or two nearer.
“Waaaah-llis,” Miss Nettlefold began in her long-vowelled, slanted voice, “I would like to present my driver, Miss May Thomas, a most unusual young woman who I dearly wanted you to meet. You know? Remember I just told you how, like me, she has recently crossed over the sea to England?” Turning to May with a reassuring smile she said, “May, I would like you to meet Mrs. Simpson.”
“Most delighted to meet you,” said Miss Nettlefold’s friend with her mesmerising symmetrical eyebrows. But she did not sound delighted at all, and shook May’s hand with an aggressive grip. “You are very young,” she remarked, in a tone of accusation, her face close enough for May to smell the strangely pleasant combination of musky perfume and eucalyptus that scented Mrs. Simpson’s breath.
“I am nineteen, Madam.”
“Nineteen,” Mrs. Simpson repeated, rolling the word around her mouth like a boiled sweet. “Nineteen. I was married at the age of nineteen. First time round, mind you. I was far older and more prepared for the second attempt!” Laughing at her own youthful absurdity, she turned her attention to the package in May’s hand. “Is this really meant for me?” she asked, looking at Miss Nettlefold.
“I think you might be able to guess what it is!” Miss Nettlefold replied with a little excited clap of her hands. “I hope your dancing shoes are in need of a little exercise!”
“Oh David, do come over here and have a look.” Mrs. Simpson glanced over in the direction of the window, across which yellow velvet curtains had been drawn.
A man was sitting on a sofa next to a grand piano, a couple of sleeping terriers lying at his feet, their heads resting on his shoes. His own head was bent over a tapestry canvas that he was poking at rhythmically with a needle threaded with green wool, but at the sound of his name he looked up.
“Come on, Cora, move off. And you too, Jaggs,” he said, shifting the dogs off his feet and onto the floor. Putting the embroidery down on the sofa he reached for the heavy silver monogrammed box on the table beside him and, lighting a cigarette, came to join the others. May had seen photographs of him, of course. In fact there was one hanging in a gold frame in the schoolroom at home, a cigarette in his mouth. But, for the second time in a month, it was a shock to see that black-and-white picture not only in colour but moving and breathing. He looked thinner than he had in the photograph and even smaller than the mournful figure he had presented to the crowds at the recent funeral of his father. His face was the colour of a plum and his left eye drooped a little as if halfway towards a wink. He was wearing a grey and red kilt with black checks and a thick blue jersey. A couple of small burn marks on one of the sleeves were just visible beneath a dusting of cigarette ash. He was clearly as unprepared for introductions as May was.
“So, Miss …?”
“Thom-Thomas,” she supplied, stumbling a little over her own name before adding, “Sir, I mean, Your Royal. King. Sorry, Your Majesty, I mean.” She tapered off.
But he appeared troubled neither by her confusion nor by her wobbly attempt at a curtsey and turned to watch Mrs. Simpson open the brown paper parcel.
“What have we here, my dear Evangeline?” Mrs. Simpson exclaimed in her jangly voice as she removed the flat slipcase from the wrapping paper. “Oh my! I do declare it is something to get the foot tapping!” And then, “But Evangeline, darling! How clever you are! A foxtrot from Handy’s Memphis Blues Band,’ she exclaimed, reading the words of the record sleeve. “Oh my! David, do you see?”
Mrs. Simpson held the bright yellow disc out to show him. Printed along the bottom of the record were the words “Manufactured for Hochschild, Kohn and Co.”
“Oh, Evangeline! Hochschild’s! Our favourite store, the lipstick store, the place of refuge from our mothers! Were we all of sixteen, even fifteen years old I wonder?”
Her eyes shone at the recollection. But Miss Nettlefold was not quite finished with her surprise.
“And Wallis, there is a rather divine coincidence that I think will surprise you.” Miss Nettlefold pointed to one word denoting the record label, which was imprinted on the top of the disc. Belvedere. Just the same as Fort Belvedere, the house in which they all stood.
“Well! I do declare this is quite the best gift I ever did see! What about it, David? Do you see what a clever, imaginative, generous friend I have brought to stay with us? We will quite forget all our worries when we start dancing to Handy’s Band. It will be quite like the good old times before you became …”
But she stopped herself mid-sentence and ran over to the gramophone, the record in her hand.
“Come here, Evangeline darling! Let’s listen to it at once. And let’s have a martini! Whoever said it was too early for a martini? It’s never too early for a cocktail, is it, Vangey?” Her hands were as expressive as her smile, opening up and outwards as she spoke.
The king appeared startled by this girlish gush of reminiscence and, spotting May dawdling uncertainly in the corner near the door, went over to speak to her. May had been trying to edge out of the room, with its soft lamplight and its glossy furniture, without anyone noticing.
“I believe Miss Nettlefold mentioned that you learned to drive in the West Indies?” the king began. “A most glorious place! I know it myself: travelled all through that area by ship just after the war! Such friendly people aren’t they? Which one exactly is your island?”
“Barbados, sir,” she murmured, but his attention had returned to the figure of Mrs. Simpson, who was gliding round the room to the sound of the music. As she passed by, the king’s hand brushed her cashmere elbow. He was quite unable to take his eyes off her.
“Just imagine, darling. May is from Barbados. One day, soon, darling,” he said, raising his voice to compete with the bluesy crooning coming from the gramophone, “I promise WE will go and find some sunshine.”
On hearing the emphasis the king put on the personal pronoun, Mrs. Simpson put her purple-polished finger to her lips in a sign to him to say no more. Her face was abnormally pale, and apart from the mole on one cheek her skin was as smooth as the inside of a seashell. Whirling away from the king’s touch, Mrs. Simpson turned her back on them and May could see her wide jawbone jutting out from either side of her head like the back view of a cobra. The king pulled a cigarette from a compact leather case that was tucked into the silver sporran hanging from his waist and lit the end from the burning ember of the one he was about to extinguish. The intimacy of the little procedure unnerved May further and she was wondering how much more of this unexpected encounter she could manage.
“I am most impressed to hear of your skill behind the wheel,” he continued in his semi-transatlantic accent. May could feel herself breathing hard. “I love cars myself,” said the king. “Matter of fact I’m thinking of ordering one of those new American station wagons. My own driver Ladbroke is a little sceptical. Perhaps you would care to have a turn in the machine when you next bring Miss Nettlefold to see us? You might be able to persuade Ladbroke that one must keep up with the times?”
But May found herself unable to supply anything more than a blush in return to this friendly line of enquiry. And suddenly it was all over. Mr. Osborne had returned and was lingering by the door. With a barely discernible inclination of his head, he indicated to May that it was time to leave.
Past the yellow chairs, across the marble floor, and there at last was the February wind restoring some coolness to May’s flushed cheeks. It was as if she had been released from a conservatory where rare plants were lovingly tended, unable to survive without careful nurturing. Outside felt like the real world. Inside resembled a hothouse of make-believe. She reached the car, inhaling the familiar leather smell of the seats. This strange house, about which she had already been warned in advance not to ask questions, had well and truly shaken her.
“Fancy that,” May murmured out loud, settling herself back in her seat. It occurred to her that Mrs. Simpson must be a very good friend indeed of the king to be so in charge in the king’s own house.
“Well, I must get back to my proper place where I belong, darling,” she continued out loud.
“Darling” mattered to May. Her father never uttered the word when speaking to her and she was glad of that. The term of endearment was reserved for rare usage by her mother alone, and its power to soothe always took her by happy surprise. May could not imagine ever using the word herself. It did not seem to fit anyone she knew. For a moment she wished desperately that her mother could be there with her now.
Pulling the door shut, and adjusting a small cushion that Mr. Hooch, the Cuckmere Park odd-job man, had suggested would give May extra height, she put the engine carefully into reverse. She was still feeling jumpy after the recent scene in the drawing room and as the car began to crunch over the gravel, her shoe became caught in a small tear in the fitted carpet on the floor below the steering wheel. As May tried to release her foot, she inadvertently pressed down hard on the accelerator pedal. The car jolted backwards, hitting an object that May was certain had not been in the driveway earlier.
A prickling on her arms was coming from underneath her skin. The sensation, May’s infuriating response to anything that made her nervous, travelled up towards her shoulders, then her neck and right into her cheeks as she fought the instinct to look round. Take it slowly, May told herself. There is no need to panic. Had Miss Nettlefold been carrying her handbag with her as she entered the house? May felt certain she had. And then a dreadful thought occurred to her. Still facing forward and sitting up very straight May was able to see the reflection of the back seat in the driving mirror. It was empty.
Just then Miss Nettlefold appeared at the front door of the house. For a second or two she stood quite still, a large and in some ways absurd figure in her black fur hat, her voluminous coat and shoulders rounded and hunched forward, as if she was trying to reduce her height. Shielding her eyes with her hand against the surprisingly strong glare of a setting wintry sun, Miss Nettlefold searched the driveway.
“Wiggle!” May heard her call in a deep American voice, and then again, a little louder with an extended emphasis on the first syllable. “Weeeg-le!”
Miss Nettlefold turned in the direction of the parked car, a woman happy in her ownership of a temporarily missing dog, as she scanned the gravel for the wag of a tail. But her glance fell quickly on a small, still shape just visible beneath a back wheel of the Rolls-Royce.
In an instant the Fort driveway filled up with several black-suited servants, alerted by Miss Nettlefold’s agonised cry. Towered over by the straight-backed Mr. Osborne, they hovered crow-like over the large figure that lay on the gravel, unsure how to lift the comatose Miss Nettlefold inside. In her thick-haired fur coat Miss Nettlefold resembled a bear that had lumbered out of the evergreen rhododendron bushes surrounding the driveway and collapsed in confusion.
Mr. Osborne approached May and suggested that it might be best if she leave now, adding, after a theatrical clearing of his throat, “And remove the instrument of death before Miss Nettlefold regains consciousness.”
A yard or two away, his outline just identifiable beneath a plaid rug, lay the motionless body of Wiggle.
Meet the Author
Juliet Nicolson is the author of The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm and The Great Silence: Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age. She read English at the University of Oxford and has worked in publishing in both the UK and the United States. She is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and the daughter of Nigel Nicolson. She has two daughters, and lives with her husband in Sussex.
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When does what I know stop being a secret and turn into an unreleased issue? In 1936, May Thomas finds herself traveling to England in search of work, and inadvertently becomes tangled in history as it is happening. She becomes a chauffeur to a family closely associated with King Edward and Wallis Simpson, a woman determined to have whatever she wants regardless of the consequences. May knows and accepts her position to keep a low profile, and whatever she happens to see to herself. Yet watching the action from the sidelines as it unfolds is riveting and at times a secret greater than May feels she should have to keep. The actions of the few are going to alter the lives of so many, and May wonders whom if anyone has the power to control this. The other earth shattering eruption coming to England is from Germany and affects May’s Jewish cousins. The horror that is about to be unleashed upon an entire nationality is rearing its ugly head and May is doing everything to stay true to her core beliefs regardless of what others may say. She is not going to allow the evil that appears to be bent on destruction take away her family’s structure. Reading Abdication by Juliet Nicolson you feel the effect of looking through a window into someone else’s life. This is a well written, and prolific story that is being told from an insider’s perspective and dives right into the heart of the happenings and readers watch the drama play out.
I was drawn to this novel, which tells the story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, albeit as secondary characters, after watching the movie, The King’s Speech, which I loved. This is a debut novel for the author, Juliet Nicholson, but she is a well known and respected writer of nonfiction and has written on this time period. In the interest of full disclosure, I freely admit that my knowledge of this subject is absolutely minimal, so I was relying completely upon Ms. Nicholson’s background with her subject. There are two primary characters in the novel, Evangeline, a childhood friend of Wallis Simpson, invited to visit, but staying with her godmother, Lady Joan Blunt, and May, the Blunt’s young female chauffeuse (that is the female term for chauffeur) and secretary to Sir Philip Blunt, who is a member of Parliament and legal advisor to Edward VIII. Through these two characters we watch the relationship of Wallis Simpson and Edward grow and become a scandal that rocks the monarchy and nation. In addition we are introduced to a rather large host of characters, among them May’s Jewish relations and the Blunt’s Fascist housekeeper. I enjoyed the variety of characters in the novel, but for the most part I found them very one dimensional, flat-no one grew as a person; several of the characters were whiney and unlikeable, or felt rather clichéd, such as the Jewish mother-in-law. There was a fair amount of action in the novel, from political unrest involving Fascist marches and speeches, to paparazzi following the King and Wallis, to the legal wrangling of whether or not abdication would be necessary. Relationships also play a big part, but not always in the way that the reader might expect. I felt that the author did a good job keeping the pace of the novel moving forward, and this was a fast read. We all know how the story ends, but she made getting there an interesting tale. I have not read a good deal about the story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, but I would imagine that most authors take one of two roads, telling the tale either as one of a great romance-a man who loved a woman so completely that he gave up a throne for her, or as a tale of betrayal of a people-how could a king put one woman above his subjects. Juliet Nicholson very definitely takes a stand on one side of that fence, but I write spoiler-free reviews, so if you want to know, you must read the book! My only complaint with the book was that the characters were a little wooden, stereotypical at times, and that a couple where whiney to the point of getting on my nerves. The historical aspects were quite well done. Overall, it was a very solid debut novel, and I will certainly look forward to Ms. Nicholson’s sophomore effort. If you are a fan of all things Wallis and Edward, or like me, you simply want to learn more, I recommend this one.
Abdication has such wonderful descriptions of characters as well as scenes, that you can actually see the detail of each…..so many incredible words put together to make a great picture of the scene, character, or comment. You will follow boat trips across the ocean carrying two different women from different locations but both ending in London and meeting by chance. You will meet May, Sam, Evangeline, Wallis, and other family members and friends that are weaved into a beautiful, historical story with delightful characters. You will learn of life in London in the early 1930's as a person in the "big" house or as a person who works for the "big" house. If you enjoy this time period and hearing the escapades of both sides, you will thoroughly enjoy Abdication with all its properness of privileged English families as well as the poverty that abounds. You will definitely learn of British Society and their customs and, of course, the British Royalty. The book does get a little confusing with so many characters, but it all comes together in this appealing book. The ending pages also bring out the start of the horrors and hatreds of the beginning of WWII as well as the story of King Edward VIII. I enjoyed this historical book. 4/5 This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher in return for an honest review.
This novel's evocation of time and place are interesting, but I found the terse prose style grating and the characters unappealing. Probably this is a good novel, but I didn't particularly enjoy reading it.
If you are expecting to read about the abdication you will be quite dissappointed. The book is just your average period piece with some snippits of history.
I really enjoyed this novel, and can totally see how BBC will turn this into a great mini-series, as is indicated on the book cover. It centers around London, 1936, during the reign of King Edward VII. May is a young girl from Barbados, who along with her brother, are sent to England to be cared for by their aunt. May is hired as a chauffer for Sir Philip Blunt, and finds herself immersed in a subdued, if not secret side of British royalty, politics and upper class society. Other characters are introduced to the story: an American spinster friend of Wallis Simpson, Sir Philip's son Rupert and best friend to Rupert, Julian - each strongly developed and well intricated. And of course, there is Wallis Simpson herself and His Royal Highness. I was surprised that the story did not develop more about Wallis Simpson and her relationship with the King. Having the title "Abdication" would lead one to this conclusion, however, this topic idea played a rather secondary role to the intertwinement of the actual plot. In all, it is a most enjoyable read, well written to capture the essence of this era of history. Book clubs will be certain to glean plenty of subject matter, and it will be very interesting to watch the BBC/PBS version once it airs. flag
Absolutely awful. The author's nonfiction book, "The Perfect Summer," was so good I was looking forward to this one, but it's terrible. Did she not have an editor? The storyline (or storylines--there are many) wanders around and there are many extraneous characters as well. Tedious and silly. Give it a miss and read "The Perfect Summer."