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.
"This book is the perfect cup of tea for the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Give it to lovers of all things British. It's also a good bet for fans of Alexander McCall Smith." Booklist
"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. . . . Royal watchers and students of class alike will enjoy this smart. . . tale." Publishers Weekly
"Kuhn's first novel ought to find an avid readership among the filmgoers who flocked to The King's Speech and The Queen....An affectionate, sympathetic but also unstinting look at the woman inside the sovereign." Kirkus
"You'll come away thinking Her Majesty, at least this fictional one, charming, caring, thoughtful and brave. . . . A delightful escape. We can only hope there are more train rides in Her Majesty's future." USA Today
"[A] charmer of a first novel. . . . This Elizabeth is delightful, slyly funny company. You'll never look at the real one the same way again." People (3 ½ stars)
"Poignant and sweet, MRS QUEEN TAKES THE TRAIN is a comic study of the British class system, an unusual testament to the possibilities of friendship outside normal comfort zones and an affirmation of the humanity within all of us." Richmond Times-Dispatch
"A witty, contemporary story of the Downton Abbey-esque tensions between servants and employers, the young and the old, and tradition and modernity." Glamour.com
"A delightful read, a bit of fiction (the train journey) set into nonfiction (everything else), and a sly look at how the monarchy is changing along with--or maybe two beats behind--the rest of Britain." Minneapolis Star Tribune
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.
Read an exclusive essay by William Kuhn