Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An absolute delight of a debut novel by William Kuhn — author of Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books — 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.
About the Author
William Kuhn is a biographer and historian, and the author, most recently, of Reading Jackie, a look at the personality of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis through the books she chose to edit at Viking and Doubleday. He has written three previous books: Democratic Royalism; Henry and Mary Ponsonby, a double biography of two key people at the court of Queen Victoria; and The Politics of Pleasure, a life of Britain's most royalist prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. This is his first novel.