Synopses & Reviews
The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.
During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach.
Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences.
Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May.
May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.
"Set in England in 1936, historian Nicolson's debut novel explores the tumultuous love lives of two couples, set against the backdrop of a world bracing for another global conflict while still recovering from WWI. Prince of Wales Edward and American divorcÃ©e Wallis Simpson are entangled in a scandalous (real-life) love affair whose secrecy they try desperately to maintain, a challenge made all the more difficult after Edward's ascension as king and concomitant thrust to the forefront of the public stage. Meanwhile, May Thomas, a chauffeur staying with Jewish relatives, falls in love with political Oxford undergraduate Julian Richardson, whose restlessness threatens their relationship. As if navigating an illicit royal love affair weren't enough, Edward and Wallis's situation becomes further complicated when Wallis's childhood friend the overweight 'virgo intacta' Evangeline Nettlefold shows up and her long-held resentments threaten to undo the monarchy. Though richly detailed and set in a dynamic time and place, the novel revolves primarily around the uninteresting and unlikable Evangeline, leaving the truly interesting characters of Edward and Wallis to wait in the wings. Agent: William Clark, William Clark Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A vivid reimagining of the crisis surrounding King Edward VIII's abdication through the eyes of two intriguing outsiders from very different worlds. In her thoroughly absorbing novel, Juliet Nicolson combines a historian's deep knowledge and eye for telling detail with a keen sense of drama, a dash of romance, and an understanding of the complex motivations of human nature.” —Sally Bedell Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen
“In historian Nicolson's first fiction, a Remains of the Day ambience is played out against the backdrop of George V's death and Edward VIII's ascension to the throne.... Nicolson writes knowledgeably of weekends in the country, swank parties and the ironic-supercilious posture of the British upper class. The novel rings with authenticity... a period drama ready to be adapted by the BBC and rerun on PBS.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Richly detailed and set in a dynamic time and place.” —Publishers Weekly
“Abdication beautifully evokes the troubled thirties, with its high-stakes politics, easy money, and social tensions. Juliet Nicolson is an outstanding historian who brings the full panoply of her talent and research to the task of recreating the abdication crisis and its effect on Britain. This is a wonderful novel.” –Amanda Foreman, award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in America’s Civil War
“Anyone interested in the 1930s will revel in this richly detailed slant on the abdication crisis.” —Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The American Heiress
“With her keen eye for historical detail and intimate knowledge of England’s social mores, Juliet Nicolson weaves a juicy and evocative tale of lives caught in the midst of one of Britain’s great modern dramas, the abdication of King Edward VIII.” —Tina Brown, editor-in-chief, The Daily Beast and Newsweek.com
“I was completely gripped by the story of David and Wallis Simpson.... But no less compellingly drawn were the rest of Juliet Nicolson's cast of characters. The kindly Evangeline, driven to pathetic jealousy. The almost-but-thank-goodness-not-quite caddishness and earnestness of Julian (just a perfect rendition of a man of that era), the sweet but fiery May, the love and fear felt by Florence and the genial Philip.... Goodness, Abdication really is good. I'm in awe of Juliet's ability to move from nonficition to fiction so seamlessly.” Jessica Fellowes, < i=""> New York Times <> bestselling author of < i=""> The World of Downton Abbey < p=""> <>
“Fans of The King’s Speech will love Nicolson’s racy historical drama, set in 1936 against the backdrop of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII’s love affair.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Anyone requiring a post— Downton Abbey fix could do worse than this beguiling, Thirties-era, class-conscious soap opera, written by the granddaughter of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. Enthusiastically recommended.” —Library Journal (starred)
“Nicolson's eye for period detail is spot-on, and her characterisations of the main players are superb.... This is a delightful story of a friendship forged by the drama of the Abdication and the approaching war; ideal for the intelligent deckchair.” —The Times (London)
“...[an] imaginative and warmly woven first novel.... In every nuance of Abdication, Nicolson’s subtle layering of relationships attests to her innate facility in capturing even the smallest details of class-regimented British society during its last dance of self-indulgence before the cataclysm of World War II.” —BookReporter.com
From critically acclaimed historian Juliet Nicolson comes a glorious debut novel set in 1936 London about secrecy, tumultuous love, and a king and his subjects torn between public duty and private desire.
The Second World War looms in a world that dreads another international conflict, and England is full of secrets, not least of which is the affair the newly proclaimed King is having with an American divorcÉe. But not every confidence involves royalty. The lovely young chauffeur May Thomas and the complex Oxford undergraduate Julian Richardson share an undeclared love, while the identity of May’s real father remains mysterious. Mrs. Cage, the housekeeper, desperately tries to keep her Nazi-sympathies hidden, and Evangeline Nettlefold’s ambivalent relationship with her school friend Wallis Simpson threatens to become explosive.
Secrecy, tensions between parent and child, the private tussles of life, and the dilemma of whether or not duty supersedes love, reverberate throughout Abdication, in matters of social conscience, politics, and romance.
A glorious story that brings to mind the film The King’s Speech, as well as the beloved English novels Brideshead Revisited and The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.
About the Author
Juliet Nicolson is the author of The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911 and The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War. She read English at the University of Oxford and has worked in publishing in both the UK and the United States. She is the President of the Kent Branch of the Jane Austen Society, has two daughters, and lives in London and Kent.