I am not above mentioning that I picked up D.J. Taylor‘s The Windsor Faction for all the wrong reasons. I was truly skimming a blurb about it when the name Wallis Simpson jumped out at me. Sold. I will read just about anything about Wallis Simpson, and for some reason I am particularly drawn to fiction in which she is featured. What I failed to read was the whole sentence : What if Wallis Simpson died in 1936 and Kind Edward never had to abdicate the throne for the woman he loved?
So while I thought I was about to read a novel about Wallis Simpson, the story was in fact a rewriting of history in which Edward rules Britain in the years leading up to World War II. Once I got over the fact that Simpson dies on the first pages of the novel, it was actually quite a good tale.
The story is largely set among various members of the aristocracy, most of whom oppose intervention into the European theater where Hitler is amassing his holdings. Each chapter is told from a different point of view: daughter of a colonial official who is dating a man from the American Embassy, a writer who helps the King write his Christmas day speech, and a lower class man who works in an antique shop but becomes involved in nefarious activities. Bringing together a story told in multiple narratives and from various points of view is not always easy to achieve. Taylor pulls this off with some success. There were certainly chapters that I felt were superfluous (especially those in Ceylon), but it does come together in the end. I think some additional editing could have made it a tighter story, but who am I?
Who would like this book? This book is for those who like to ponder the ‘what ifs’ of history. In particular, what if King Edward, with rumored Nazi sympathies, remained on the throne throughout World War II. A knowledge of WWII certainly brings added enjoyment to the novel as real personages such as Captain Ramsay and Beverly Nichols are key players in the book, though it is not necessary.
This book was provided to my by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.