Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

( 14 )

Overview

After decades of service and years of watching her family's troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain's Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for ...

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Mrs Queen Takes the Train

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Overview

After decades of service and years of watching her family's troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain's Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for King's Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a characterful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty's cheese set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a clever novel, offering a fresh look at a woman who wonders if she, like Britannia herself, has, too, become a relic of the past. William Kuhn paints a charming yet biting portrait of British social, political, and generational rivalries—between upstairs and downstairs, the monarchy and the government, the old and the young. Comic and poignant, fast paced and clever, this delightful debut tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his first novel, historian Kuhn (Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books) attempts yet another imagining of the inner life of Queen Elizabeth II. Royalty is a lonely-if-privileged existence in the 21st century, and the queen has endured years of sordid scandals and stoic service. When she hears that the former royal yacht, Britannia, is moored in Scotland, she decides to visit, hoping to relive some happy memories. Disguised in a hoodie, she slips from the palace unnoticed. Upon discovering her gone, a motley crew of palace servants forms a search party. Included are the Queen's down-on-her-luck lady-in-waiting, Anne; a dedicated butler; an equerry just back from Iraq; a young mistress of the Mews; the queen's longtime dresser, Shirley; and a cheese shop clerk and sometime paparazzo. All are hoping to coax the monarch to return before the tabloids, or MI5, get wind of the adventure. Kuhn explores not only the queen's inner life, but the Downtown Abbey style-tensions between servants and royals, the old guard and the new. The servants are the real stars here, distinguishing this from other Elizabethan imaginings. Royal watchers and students of class alike will enjoy this smart, if familiar, tale. (Oct.)
Booklist
“This book is the perfect cup of tea for the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Give it to lovers of all things British. It’s also a good bet for fans of Alexander McCall Smith.”
(3 1/2 stars) - People Magazine
"[A] charmer of a first novel. . . . This Elizabeth is delightful, slyly funny company. You’ll never look at the real one the same way again."
People (3 ½ stars)
“[A] charmer of a first novel. . . . This Elizabeth is delightful, slyly funny company. You’ll never look at the real one the same way again.”
USA Today
“You’ll come away thinking Her Majesty, at least this fictional one, charming, caring, thoughtful and brave. . . . A delightful escape. We can only hope there are more train rides in Her Majesty’s future.”
People
“[A] charmer of a first novel. . . . This Elizabeth is delightful, slyly funny company. You’ll never look at the real one the same way again.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Poignant and sweet, MRS QUEEN TAKES THE TRAIN is a comic study of the British class system, an unusual testament to the possibilities of friendship outside normal comfort zones and an affirmation of the humanity within all of us.”
Glamour.com
“A witty, contemporary story of the Downton Abbey-esque tensions between servants and employers, the young and the old, and tradition and modernity.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A delightful read, a bit of fiction (the train journey) set into nonfiction (everything else), and a sly look at how the monarchy is changing along with—or maybe two beats behind—the rest of Britain.”
Library Journal
What if, once upon a time, Queen Elizabeth II did a runner? That's the fantastic, unlikely premise of this debut novel by nonfiction author Kuhn (Reading Jackie). Beset by troubles with her computer, austerity budgets, and, let's face it, family problems, the monarch thinks of magical moments aboard the royal yacht Britannia, now decommissioned and a tourist attraction in Edinburgh. Outfitted with stout shoes, her ever-present handbag (the contents of which are revealed), and a blue hoodie borrowed from a palace employee, Elizabeth heads to Scotland. In an effort to protect her, a gaggle of six ladies-in-waiting, palace staff, and common folk help steer her adroitly but inconspicuously from the sidelines. No one outside the royal circle seems to recognize her, although there are a few murmurs about Helen Mirren. VERDICT Expertly timed to capitalize on the glow emanating from the Diamond Jubilee, the satire here is featherweight (Kuhn is no Sue Townsend) in this 60-gun salute to the establishment that perpetuates the institution of the monarchy, including, of course, the queen herself. Long may she wave.—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO
Kirkus Reviews
An imaginative glimpse into the queen of England's psyche as she rebels against her routine. Historian and biographer Kuhn's first novel ought to find an avid readership among the filmgoers who flocked to The King's Speech and The Queen. In fact, among the most delectable moments are when courtiers and queen reflect, with rue and occasional appreciation, upon the accuracy of such films. Sometime in the recent past, as British sentiment is swinging back from the anti-monarchism sparked by the Diana debacle, government economies are beginning to rankle the queen and feed into her increasing sense of malaise. It was bad enough when her yacht, Britannia, was decommissioned on the grounds that a constitutional monarch did not need a yacht. Now, they want to take away the private train that transports her to her Scottish retreat, Balmoral Castle. While walking alone in the Buckingham Palace gardens, the queen impulsively decides to visit Britannia where it's moored, as a tourist attraction, near Edinburgh. At this point, storylines involving peripheral characters already introduced, at rather excessive length, by Kuhn, coalesce. Rebecca, a troubled young woman who works in the royal stables, and Rajiv, a young man of Indian heritage with poetic aspirations who's employed by the royal cheese purveyor, help the queen aboard a public train to Edinburgh, where incognita in Rebecca's hoodie, she chats up unsuspecting fellow passengers. Meanwhile, Luke, an equerry who is still reeling from his service in Iraq, and William, the queen's butler, team up to locate the queen before MI5 and the tabloids do. A lady-in-waiting, Anne, and the queen's loyal chief dresser, Shirley, are also on Her Majesty Elizabeth II's trail. Kuhn does a convincing job of inhabiting the heads of his characters, crowned or not. Until an overworked denouement restores her remoteness, Kuhn's queen is generous with surprising ruminations on her love for dogs, horses (but not deer!), Dubonnet and gin, and her subjects. An affectionate, sympathetic but also unstinting look at the woman inside the sovereign.
From the Publisher
Earphones Award Winner. "Simon Prebble gives an impeccable performance in this story about Queen Elizabeth's spontaneous and unescorted journey on a train, which throws the staff of the Royal Household into chaos... Prebble's pacing with the Queen's soft-spoken, intentional speech is spot-on, as are his flawless transitions from one character's accent to the next. His intentionally exaggerated American and Indian accents and his rendering of the subtle differences between various English accents make a charming story even more entertaining. A sweet treat for Anglophiles." - AudioFile Magazine
3 out of 4 stars. "...light comedy, romance, and royal sensibilities, mixed with subplots touching on aging, political correctness and respect for sexual preferences, make for a delightful escape. We can only hope there are more train rides in Her Majesty's future." - USA Today
"Royal watchers and students of class alike will enjoy this smart, if familiar, tale." - Publishers Weekly
"Kuhn does a convincing job of inhabiting the heads of his characters, crowned or not. ... An affectionate, sympathetic but also unstinting look at the woman inside the sovereign." - Kirkus Reviews
"...a witty, contemporary story of the Downton Abbey-esque tensions between servants and employers, the young and the old, and tradition and modernity." - Glamour
"...a delightful read, a bit of fiction (the train journey) set into nonfiction (everything else), and a sly look at how the monarchy is changing along with - or maybe two beats behind - the rest of Britain." - Star Tribune
"...a frivolously delightful fairy tale." - Maclean's
"...Mrs. Queen Takes the Train is an easy read filled with speculation, information, and possible insight about a woman we think we know, but certainly do not - The Queen." - The Examiner (UK)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062208286
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/16/2012
  • Pages: 374
  • Sales rank: 210,032
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 4.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William Kuhn is a biographer and historian, and the author of Reading Jackie, Democratic Royalism, Henry & Mary Ponsonby, and The Politics of Pleasure. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. This is his first novel. His next book, a work of historical fiction, explores the friendship over nearly forty years of Isabella Stewart Gardner and John Singer Sargent.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

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(1)

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 18, 2014

    Mrs Queen Takes The Train is the first novel by American biograp

    Mrs Queen Takes The Train is the first novel by American biographer, historian, author and self-confessed Anglophile, William Kuhn. Not feeling quite her usual self, The Queen pops down to the Mews to check on Elizabeth, the mare born on her own birthday. Then, in a hoodie borrowed from Rebecca, the young stable lass, she sets off to Paxton and Whitfield to get some of the mare’s favourite cheddar, before heading to King’s Cross station. The Royal Yacht Britannia is moored up in Leith, and she feels maybe a visit to one of her “happy” places might improve her mood. And seeing as that irritating Prime Minister is telling her the Royal Train is too costly to maintain, she’ll take the Great North Eastern Railway to Edinburgh Waverley. When the Palace staff realise she’s missing, their first concern is for her safety. They do, however, want to minimise any sensationalist tabloid headlines, so a loyal young equerry joins forces with a senior butler, a lady in waiting, The Queen’s Dresser, Rebecca from the Mews and budding poet and cheese seller, Etonian Rajiv Laroia, to track her down whilst keeping an aggressive MI5 at bay. Kuhn’s narrative jumps from the present to past events as The Queen reminisces, and as the other major characters are fleshed out. Kuhn touches on some topical subjects: racial prejudice, the relevance of the monarchy, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, ageing, the cost of rail travel, homosexuality in the forces, fox hunting and the cost of maintaining tradition. Yoga, cheddar cheese, a blind couple, an Alsatian named Hohenzollern, a much-pierced youth, Julie Andrews, a social worker, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Shakespeare’s Henry V, a late-night tea van and a Hermes scarf all play a part. This novel has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, much dry wit and also the odd lump-in-the-throat moment. Kuhn’s characters are easy to like and more than one-dimensional; Kuhn’s version of The Queen is wholly credible. This novel is an absolute pleasure to read, and fans will be hoping for more from Kuhn soon. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Far exceeded my expectations.

    This book gave incite into British culture in general and specifically the monarchy. Although it isn't about Queen Elizabeth, I'd like to think she is like this person. I think this was Mr. Kuhn's first novel. I hope he will write more that are this informative and interesting and the characters are as lovable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    meh

    Fairly boring. Don't understand why the glowing reviews...friends of the author?

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  • Posted December 11, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Divided in sect

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    Divided in sections and then within each section, each character has their own parts to tell their story, the past and the present.  The characters varied from all parts of the staff of the Queen, people of London and the Queen herself - I loved the variety, it made the book so much more than just a fictional story about the Queen.

    The Queen is finding life to be a day after day experience and wants something else.  Through an interesting use of characters, the author moved the story along while also giving the reader little bits of back story for each character.  I felt as though I was getting to know London and its intricacies while also learning about a little more of what goes on in the Queen's most beautiful home and world.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    Anonymous 2/11/13

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. What an entertaining, delightful read. The story clips along with interesting characters, all of whom take time-out from their mundane lives and daily concerns to romp round England with their somewhat misguided goals of "helping" the Queen. All ends well with a regal finish. Wonderful!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 28, 2013

    This was a lovely fictional story dipicting the possible day to

    This was a lovely fictional story dipicting the possible day to day activities of the Queen. It also shows the drawbacks of being an over protected public figure. Very touching and poignant.

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  • Posted January 19, 2013

    I loved this book. In it the Queen goes awol. But the book is ul

    I loved this book. In it the Queen goes awol. But the book is ultimately about relationships. And the ending was so well done that I cried for 20 minutes while reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    What a lovely book!

    Although it's difficult to follow sometimes, this book is a fun, cozy look at what might happen if The Queen decided to go walkabout one day and the people who protect and worry about her. The lessons she learns are lesons we all need to learn about loving one another and not just for the obvious reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Refund anyone?

    What a pedantic piece of trash. Kuhn's ability to develop believable characters and action would be best confined to comics or gum wrappers. Beyond a legitimate apology for the royal system, there is no truth in the motivations or emotional makeup of these characters as they paw their way through a clumsily contrived Shakespearian allegory.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2012

    What a terrible excuse of a novel. It appears the author wants

    What a terrible excuse of a novel. It appears the author wants to air dirty laundry rather than write afictional story regarding The Queen on an adventure. It was very difficult to continue reading past the first chapter. No fun at all!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    This book was a guilty pleasure for me. I usually read to learn

    This book was a guilty pleasure for me. I usually read to learn something new and I'm not sure that happened here, but I realy enjoyed the characters and the theme of the book: The Queen is bummed out by the fact that the world and her country seem to have no need for her anymore. She rediscovers that she still the touch and that she can still make a difference. It was heartwarming. So, maybe I did learn something after all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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