Books: Mrs Queen Takes the Train

William Kuhn
Harper, 2012
384 pages

A cute story in which Queen Elizabeth II has trouble with her computer, does yoga, and wanders out of Buckingham Palace in a fit of the doldrums, leaving various other characters to pair off and go in search of her. While it's a fun concept, something deep inside me feels it does a disservice to The Queen in presuming to know her thoughts and feelings. Yes, it's fiction, but . . . I'm not 100% okay with it.

Getting past that, the tale itself is written in a simple style that lends itself to a quick read. Something about it suggests it's meant to be a television movie or something; even the book jacket likens it to Downton Abbey in its dealings with "above stairs" and "below stairs" characters. Hmm.

On the whole we have: William, who is (I forget the correct term, so my apologies) a kind of Palace butler; and Luke, an equerry; and Lady Anne; and Mrs. McDonald, who manages The Queen's wardrobe; and Rebecca, who looks after horses in the Mews; and finally Rajiv, who sells cheese at an upscale shop but really wants to be a poet. Pairing off into three groups of two, they set out after Her Majesty, who—taking a cue from "My Favorite Things"—has gone off on an impromptu trip to Scotland to visit Britannia with the idea it might make her feel better to see her beloved yacht (now a tourist attraction in Leith).

In every instance these alliances between staff are uneasy at best, and Kuhn has a habit of telling what people are thinking rather than showing them acting on those thoughts. In any case, might have been a relief to see two people get along more at some point, just for contrast.

Long story short, via a series of coincidences (or Providence, if you prefer), this motley Scooby Gang manages to find clues and track The Queen's movements. Meanwhile Her Highness is hanging out with blind people, homeless people, and the like—getting in touch with her populace.

This attempt to humanize The Queen is sweet but also incredibly obvious in its execution. Kuhn has exaggerated Elizabeth II's sheltered lifestyle and, in some instances it seems, reduced her to a near simpleton. I mean, I like to think Queen Elizabeth II knows what a crosswalk is, you know? Even if in real life she doesn't, I like to think she does. That's the key, really.

But. All that said, this was an entertaining read, and despite the problems I've mentioned, which may be mine more than the author's, I would certainly recommend it. Maybe for a cross-country trip by train?


William said...

Thanks for posting about my book! Mrs Queen and I will try and work on these issues for the next go-round. Bill Kuhn

M Pepper Langlinais said...

My goodness! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by! I did really enjoy the book overall, and look forward to reading more of your work.