Monday, May 6, 2013

Fiction Review: Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is growing increasingly disenchanted after her decades of public service and years of family scandal. One day, the Queen takes things into her own hands and, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, leaves the palace alone and incognito.

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Kuhn, William. (2012).

[Genre: General/literary fiction]

You have to be very brave to write fiction about a living person. Especially one who commands as much respect (even from her critics) as Elizabeth II. You have to have a very good story to write. So on the one hand, I picked up Mrs Queen Takes the Train with some trepidation. On the other hand, it looked like a cute and whimsical story, which if done well would be a fun read.

Unfortunately, my reservations were proved correct. There's no doubting that Kuhn has put in A LOT of research and has tried to get the facts right. But he's covered them up with a layer of fiction which does the real live people he's writing about a great disservice. I particular disliked his treatment of Prince Phillip, who isn't present in the story - his absence is covered up around page 120 with a trip abroad (of which he is accused of many and often, leaving poor Elizabeth on her lonesome). Although the exact timing of the tale is murky - sometime after the golden jubilee, but before the diamond - it's certainly after the Duke of Edinburgh started curtailing his travel commitments. These days he's rarely seen apart from at his wife's side. The Queen doing yoga was also a bit hard to swallow.

Even without this factor though, the tale just doesn't quite mesh. There's to many characters with complex backstories and on multiple occasions I felt myself wondering why I was supposed to care. The backstories also mean there's a lot of chopping and changing, flashbacking and flashforwarding which leave the whole thing feeling. . .just a bit messy.

In the end, I was a bit disappointed really. It could have been brilliant. . . but, it just wasn't.

2 stars

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