Gone with the Windsors [NOOK Book]

Overview

When Maybell Brumby, frisky, wealthy, and recently widowed, quits Baltimore and arrives in London, she finds that her old school chum, Bessie Wallis Warfield, is there ahead of her. Impoverished and ambitious as ever, Wallis is on the make. Hampered by plodding husband number two, but armed with terrific bone structure and a few erotic tricks picked up in China, Wallis sets her sights on the most eligible bachelor in the world: the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. Maybell, with her deep pockets, makes the ...

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Gone with the Windsors

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Overview

When Maybell Brumby, frisky, wealthy, and recently widowed, quits Baltimore and arrives in London, she finds that her old school chum, Bessie Wallis Warfield, is there ahead of her. Impoverished and ambitious as ever, Wallis is on the make. Hampered by plodding husband number two, but armed with terrific bone structure and a few erotic tricks picked up in China, Wallis sets her sights on the most eligible bachelor in the world: the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. Maybell, with her deep pockets, makes the perfect ally, and her disarming dimness makes her the most delicious chronicler of the scandal that rocked a monarchy and changed the course of history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The diary entries of shallow and oblivious Baltimore socialite Maybell Brumby comprise Graham's fourth novel, which explores the fictional lives of intimates involved in the 1936 abdication of King Edward VIII. Maybell, widowed by her older husband, leaves for London in 1932 to join her sister Violet and falls in with her school friend Bessie Wallis "Wally" Simpson, the married woman (twice, in fact) who has set her sights on the then Prince of Wales. Through Maybell's American patricianism, Graham (The Future Homemakers of America) skewers the tedious royal family and their aristocratic hangers-on. Maybell's self-absorption and dim-wittedness make her endearing at odd moments (as when she learns that her other sister, "Doopie," is deaf rather than mentally handicapped); her chatty tone is grating when the action-primarily Wally's plotting, conquest and royal assumption-slows. Graham depicts the abdication as a kind of bedroom farce and uses Maybell's ignorance to add ambiguity to the controversial relationship of the duke (as he is known after abdication) and Wally to the Nazi regime. As WWII becomes imminent, the leisured friends must make a run for it, and the partings are not all amicable. This light romp through sordid territory is sly, gossipy fun. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wealthy (and young) Baltimore widow Maybell Brumby travels to London in 1932 with plans to make her mark in society. Let her sister Violet socialize with the Bertie Yorks-Maybell can do better. Old friend Wallis Simpson is in town, and as always, Wally has plans. And with Maybell to pick up the tab for her old schoolmate, the ambitious Mrs. Simpson is assured of the clothes and jewels she'll need for weekends in the country with her new friend, Thelma, Prince Edward's mistress. Taking the form of a diary written by the observant yet completely clueless Maybell, Gone is a real treat for anglophiles. Graham (The Future Homemakers of America) has written a witty and insightful historical novel and even manages to make the brainless and superficial Maybell likable. Familiarity with the story of the abdication of Edward VIII and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor will certainly help the reader get all the inside references and humor, though the novel can be enjoyed without it. Recommended for popular fiction collections in public libraries.-Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A satirical recounting of the romance between Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales, as narrated by a fictional witness to the affair. Because Maybell Brumby is not quite a sympathetic cross between Lady Bricknell and Auntie Mame-in fact, her one redeeming trait is her genuine affection for her niece and nephew-she is the perfect foil for the conniving Mrs. Simpson. A silly and frivolous widow of means who consistently misinterprets the words and actions of those around her, Maybell arrives in London in 1932 to visit her sisters, attracted in part by news that her childhood playmate "Wally" has shown up with a new husband. Maybell lends money, jewelry and furs as the money-strapped but ambitious Wally Simpson makes her way into society despite a dubious past. Maybell's diary of the next decade follows Wally's manipulations as she rises from nobody to hanger-on to prince's mistress to Duchess of Windsor. The purposely inane diary goes on too long with who wore what where, but it is studded with moments of genuinely funny idiocy: Maybell calls Harrods "Harrold's" throughout; mistakes Cole Porter for a coal porter; gets comically seasick on the Guinness yacht. More seriously, she does not realize that her younger sister is deaf, not retarded. And Hitler seems quite the fellow to Maybell until actual war breaks out. No judge of character, Maybell abets Wally as she pursues the prince, who everybody but Maybell recognizes is a simpleton unsuited to the throne. While Maybell is foolish but endearing, Wally is conniving, vicious, money-grubbing and power-hungry-also a slut and gambler. According to Graham (Future Homemakers of America, 2002), Wally is out-maneuvered by the Royals whenher lover is forced off the throne and out of a large portion of his inheritance. In the end, Wally uses up even Maybell's patience. Best read in spurts, since the overabundance of entries diffuses the addictively catty fun.
USA Today
“Delightful...If you like P.G. Wodehouse - or if British royalty is your cup of ... tea - go with the Windsors
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061842931
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 889,194
  • File size: 468 KB

Meet the Author

Laurie Graham's nine novels include The Future Homemakers of America and Gone with the Windsors. She lives in Venice, Italy.

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Reading Group Guide

When Maybell Brumby, frisky, wealthy, and recently widowed, quits Baltimore and arrives in London, she finds that her old school chum, Bessie Wallis Warfield, is there ahead of her. Impoverished and ambitious as ever, Wallis is on the make. Hampered by plodding husband number two, but armed with terrific bone structure and a few erotic tricks picked up in China, Wallis sets her sights on the most eligible bachelor in the world: the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. Maybell, with her deep pockets, makes the perfect ally, and her disarming dimness makes her the most delicious chronicler of the scandal that rocked a monarchy and changed the course of history.

Questions for Discussion

QUESTION: 1.How do you think having real-life historical figures mixed with fictional affects the plot of the story? What are the benefits and disadvantages of historical fiction? What might the author have found constraining in writing about real characters? What might she have found inspiring? Are there ethical problems with fictionalizing the lives of real people? Do you see any ethical issues in the way the characters in Gone with the Windsors are depicted?

QUESTION: 2.How does the diary format affect the way you read the novel, i.e., Did you feel like you were reading something deeply personal? Did it feel more intimate? Why or why not? What do you miss by having the story told to you in diary form? What do you gain? Did you find having missing entries difficult?

QUESTION: 3.Look at the way the author uses humor—Maybell's skewering of Edna Piaf, Alfred Einstein, and Cole (Coal) Porter among the many. Are we laughing with Maybell or at her? Name some instances when Maybell is inadvertently witty. Maybell witnesses the courtship of the twentieth century and the scandal that rocked a monarchy—recording all in her diary. How does her dimwittedness affect your opinion of her? What is Maybell's opinion of herself?

QUESTION: 4.What kind of friend is Maybell to Wally? How does Wally repay Maybell's generosity?

QUESTION: 5.Maybell's niece Flora renames her stuffed animals as the story moves forward. What is the significance of the names she gives them? What is Maybell's relationship with her niece and nephews? What are their feelings toward her? When you read the letter from Susan, the grandniece of Maybell, are you surprised at her description of Maybell? How is her perception of Maybell different from the picture that is painted through Maybell's diary entries?

QUESTION: 6.The abdication of King Edward VIII is depicted as a kind of bedroom farce, the childlike Prince of Wales easily manipulated by the cunning Wally. How well does this book re-examine and satirize the well-documented abdication crisis? Does it try to exonerate Simpson or merely damn her further?

QUESTION: 7.The early 1930s was a time of great global turmoil and upheaval. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, the end of American prohibition and saw the rise of Fascism in Europe. How does the book explore these issues?

QUESTION: 8.When Hitler is storming across Europe, the Duchess (Wally) is upset she didn't get a particular diamond pendant for her birthday. What does this reveal about all the characters of the "inner circle"? History shows that the Duke (as he is known after abdication) and Wally had a controversial relationship to the Nazi regime. Why did they think Hitler was an acceptable leader and dinner companion? Does Maybell's cluelessness to the extraordinary events that were occurring all around her ever become unbelievable? If so, when? What are other instances of her misunderstanding or dismissing major political or otherwise significant events?

QUESTION: 9.Both Wally and Maybell are social climbers of varying degrees. Of the two, who is more conscious of social status? Why did you choose her? Would you rather go to dinner with Wally or Maybell, and why? What is the difference between social status and class? Could an American ever truly break through the constraints of England's class system? Do you think Violet, Maybell's sister who married a Lord, is accepted in English society?

QUESTION: 10.Why did the Prince of Wales fall in love with Wally? At what point did Wally begin to seduce Edward? Was it always on her agenda? Do you think Edward and Wally's relationship was similar to how it is depicted in Gone with the Windsors? If King Edward VIII's abdication for a twice-divorced American woman had not happened in real life, would you believe it? Name other instances when truth is stranger than fiction.

QUESTION: 11.What does the novel say about the relationship with America and Britain? Is the Wallace-Edward relationship in this book a representation of the deeper political and social ties between the two countries? If so, how?

QUESTION: 12.How well does this book re-examine and satirize the well-documented abdication crisis? Does it try to exonerate Simpson or merely damn her further?

QUESTION: 13.The title of the book alludes to the film Gone with the Wind. What comparisons can be drawn between the film and the book, and in particular Wallace and Edward and Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2006

    Brilliant Wit Written on the Windsors

    Bought the book last year on the day it was published in London -- glad to see the American edition is now out. Wonderfully entertaining and endlessly fascinating, my copy has been read and reread by those closest to me with consistant pleasure and surprise. On the downside, it must be a terrible read for anyone without a sense of humor.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 2, 2011

    Loved this book!

    This is a very humorous fun read. At the same time it gives you a pretty good glimpse into what life among England's royalty might have been like. I've recommended this book to many friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2006

    A Marvelous Romp through pre-war London

    What a charming book! Very imaginative and intertaining. You can actually imagine all these grand events, the people and the places as Laurie Graham so deftly describes them. She creatively places the reader at Wallis's dinner table and you watch as she watches the poor Duke of Windsor reach his fullest potential - as the life long love slave of the unlikely Wallis Simpson. You can't make this stuff up - oh wait - yes you can! Great fun!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 26, 2012

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