Monday, March 10, 2014

Review : Mrs. Queen takes the Train by William Kuhn

From the publisher:
An absolute delight of a debut novel by William Kuhn...Mrs Queen Takes the Train wittily imagines the kerfuffle that transpires when a bored Queen Elizabeth strolls out of the palace in search of a little fun, leaving behind a desperate team of courtiers who must find the missing Windsor before a national scandal erupts. Reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, this lively, wonderfully inventive romp takes readers into the mind of the grand matriarch of Britain’s Royal Family, bringing us an endearing runaway Queen Elizabeth on the town—and leading us behind the Buckingham Palace walls and into the upstairs/downstairs spaces of England’s monarchy.

What a fun book! This light, cheery, and surprisingly introspective work looks at the burdens of isolation, old age, and changing mores not just in Merry Olde England, but with enough panache to allow us to apply it anywhere. Some might see it merely as a somewhat pedantic view of the value of maintaining a monarchy. Kuhn chooses to portray a Queen who is struggling to do her duty as she has been taught and to be human with all the fatigue, self-doubt, and anxiety that goes with growing old, watching loved ones die, worrying about children, and trying to figure out what life is all about before it's over.

Just imagine Her Majesty traipsing through the streets of rainy London with no umbrella, wearing her trademark head scarf and a borrowed hoody with a skull and crossbones on the back.  It can only get better from there.  This one is a short read, but is not one to be brushed aside. For me it was a perfect palate cleanser from a steady diet of ponderous, dark, and often pompous literary fiction. Books like this one make reading fun, and at the same time give us a glimpse of what might be ahead.

I got this one in audio because it was right there for the picking. It was a great choice. Definitely recommended. 

Title: Mrs. Queen takes the Train
Author: William Kuhn
Publisher/Format: Harper Perennial (2013), Paperback, 384 pages
Audio edition Dreamscape Media; Unabridged edition 9 hr, 33 min
Narrator Simon Preble
Genre: fiction
Subject: Queen Elizabeth goes rogue
Setting: various settings in England and Scotland
Source: Public library


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