Author: William Kuhn
Published: October 16, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 374 pages
Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Synopsis (from GoodReads): 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.
My Thoughts: I am a royal watcher. There, I said it and I have no shame in admitting it. There is something about the British royal family that is so intriguing and interesting, especially since as an American, we don't have a family like that which we can look up to (the first family changes every four to eight years). And at the head of that family is the Queen, a private woman who does her duty wonderfully. William Kuhn explores what would happen if the Queen just decided to leave one day. I'm sure it's something that everyone has wondered about ("Do royals wish they were us?" and questions like that), so he went ahead and wrote a novel focused on the Queen leaving Buckingham Palace one day and journeying to Scotland. Now, the only royal who makes an appearance in this novel is the Queen, so if you were expecting some interaction among the royal family, then you are out of luck. But there is quite the cast of characters, mostly comprised of the household staff. So, if you are a fan of Downton Abbey, then this is a book that you would probably love because it reminded me so much of that show.
Kuhn is a nonfiction writer and this is his first foray into the world of fiction. I think that his topic for his first novel was a great one and something that he was able to write knowledgably about. He knows quite a bit about the royal family, and that comes across in his writing. It's also great how he structures the Queen's staff. There is a cast of people working for the Queen and in the palace, but he selects just a few to join the story, ensuring that you are never overwhelmed with the amount of people moving around or their relationship to the Queen. I do think that his writing was a bit stiff, which is a reflection of his background. I hope that if he continues with fiction in the future that the stiffness will lessen, but who knows?!
If you enjoy Downton Abbey, then you will definitely like this book. If you were a fan of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, then you will probably like this book. It's a cute and simple read and one that really engaged my imagination. It's not too rushed, never overwhelming, and a very cute story to get wrapped up in.