Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Very British Independence Day

It's just a fluke that I'm involved in all things British on this most American of holidays. I'll blame it on the heat. 100 degrees in the shade and most of our plans are on hold. There's no wind so we can't take advantage of our neighbors' invite to go sailing....I know, you're not feeling my pain. So in between various tennis matches at Wimbledon, what's a girl to do? Lay about in the hammock and read!

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train is one of the books that caught my eye on NetGalley. I thought it would be a perfect low-key choice to bookend between Flight Behavior and Canada and I was sooo right! What a crackup. I refer to it as Alan Bennett on steroids. He's the very witty gentleman I wrote about here a year or two ago whose novella, The Uncommon Reader, (about Queen Elizabeth's accidental introduction to the bookmobile and literature) proved to be an uncommon delight to many discerning readers.

William Kuhn, historian and biographer, is responsible for Mrs. Queen....his first novel.....and gives credit to Bennett in a hilarious send up toward the end of the novel, when Queen Elizabeth, who is in the midst of self-doubt and depression, decides to give her minders the slip, escaping the royal grounds with the help of a young lady who works in the royal horse stables.

Wearing a borrowed hoodie, (good thing she's not in Florida!) the Queen of England hops a train for Edinburgh where her decommissioned yacht, The Britannia, is docked and serving as a tourist destination. Along the way, incognito, she has the opportunity to mingle with her subjects on an entirely different, eye-opening level. And, she gets to let down her hair a little bit!

Naturally, the Queen's disappearance causes major consternation back at the palace and several unlikely minions join forces to find her and bring her back before MI-5 can take over. How do they know she's gone? The palace phones are monitored, of course.

There's a lot going on under the surface in this seemingly simple novel; parent child relationships, gay coupledom, racism involving England's large Indian population, eco-terrorism, and the age-old problem of the royal family and their excesses in a time of economic despair, are all touched on briefly or at length in a humane, objective manner.

There's also a significant nod to Shakespeare, especially his play Henry V, which perfectly mirrors the Queen's newly aroused sensibilities, and,if all this doesn't whet your whistle, then just look at the cover. I'd have picked this novel off the shelf based on it alone. I hope I've tempted you into giving this novel a go. The bad news is, it won't be released til fall. Keep an eye out!

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