This is coming up on a reading group (BookGroupList) and I’m reading it a bit early because I really felt like a “fun” book! I enjoyed getting and reading this book, but I did NOT nominate it – correction there – my friend Elaine did that favor. I have to say that an added attraction was that Simon Prebble is such a good reader.
The non-fictional Queen Elizabeth is a wonder – I really admire her so I hope this won’t be too disrespectful, I doubt it will be. Just good fun.
The main plot is minimal – dressed in a borrowed hoodie, the Queen, not looking queenly at all, goes for an extra little walk and decides to go to Scotland to see the old sights. She gets lost – well, she doesn’t really get lost, she knows where she is, but the staff loses track of her and that really has to be remedied immediately, and quietly. So the bulk of the book consists of a lot of background re the lives of her fictional staff and a couple other folks while they search for the Queen. Sometimes we’re privy to where Mrs Queen is, what’s she’s doing and thinking. That’s the best part – Mrs Queen always shines.
Those looking for her include Shirley her dresser, Lady Anne a semi-related widow in reduced circumstances, Rebecca who works with the horses; William a dedicated butler; Luke a senior attendant who is just back from Iraq; and Rajiv a cheese shop clerk and sometime paparazzo.
Along the way there are a few themes – homosexuality, the privacy of celebrities, aging, the relevancy of the monarchy itself, animal rights, dating habits, racism, there might be some other things the lives of these characters touch on. The main theme I think is that Mrs Queen and her staff live in the contemporary world.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a bit like An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, but it’s also very different. They are both charming fictional tales of a generally beloved woman who has conducted her life with both grace and dignity under intense fire.
Photos from the paper book:
William Kuhn’s website http://www.williamkuhn.com/mrs_queen_takes_the_train_115641.htm