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Last of the Duchess, The Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (March 14, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679439706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679439707
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #890,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist and journalist Blackwood has pulled off quite a coup here: she has written a biographical portrait of the late Wallis Simpson, duchess of Windsor, without ever having seen more of her than the outside of her magnificent house near Paris and a murky photograph taken through the window by an Italian paparazzo. In 1980, the Sunday Times of London sent Blackwood to interview the 84-year-old duchess for a piece to run with photographs by Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret's husband. The assignment was dynamite, but the pair are stopped dead by Suzanne Blum, an 83-year-old eccentric and vitriolic French lawyer known as Maitre Bloom, who identifies so closely with the duchess that her life is a round of suing newspapers, perpetrating both lies and legends of her charge's beauty and good health. Maitre Bloom firmly takes over this book. A few derivative chapters cover the well-known details of Wallis Simpson's early life, but Maitre Bloom shapes every page with her tantrums and vanities. The portrait is interesting psychologically and one admires this poised effort to salvage an aborted assignment. However, the absence of denouement-neither Blackwood nor Lord Snowden make it past the ferocious protector-makes the reader wonder why she is paying this much attention to a little-known, if complex, eccentric. In the end, one can only feel sorry for both the obsessed and the object of her obsession.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1980 when the London Sunday Times commissioned Lord Snowden to photograph the 84-year-old Duchess of Windsor, then living outside of Paris, Blackwood was asked to accompany him as a reporter. Alas, this journalistic scoop was not to be, for blocking all access to the duchess was her lawyer, the fierce and formidable Suzanne Blum. Interviewing such contemporaries of Wallis Simpson as Lady Mosley and Lady Diana Cooper, Blackwood discovered that the octogenarian Maitre Blum, one of France's most powerful attorneys, had complete control over the duchess and her estate. Since Blum kept the ailing duchess isolated in her shuttered mansion, Blackwood could not verify whether Wallis had fallen into a coma, as rumored by her friends, or whether she was still as beautiful and witty as ever, as Blum maintained. And that is this book's problem; offering inconclusive speculations, it reads like the extended Vanity Fair article it should have been. For larger collections.
-?Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The long coda to the life of one of the twentieth century's most famous (infamous?) figures was played out in a French villa in an atmosphere of secrecy and intrigue that was at times bizarre. This book is extremely sharply written and is a reminder that the gothic mode is not the exclusive preseve of either fiction or the nineteenth century.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This was a truly bizarre, and sad, story of the final days of this larger-than-life woman. Maitre Blum was a woman obsessed by, and in love with, the Duchess. The amount of control M. Blum held, and the ferocity with which she held on to it are truly scary forces to see. As a follow-up to the death of the Duchess, read the essay in Dominick Dunne's collection about the disposition of her estate by the hand of M. Blum.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is a mystery novel, journalist's feature story and biography all in one. Telling the story through the author's attempts to uncover the truth surrounding Wallis' life after the death of the Duke keeps the suspense-level high. It grabbed my interest and held it to the end. If you are at all interested in the Windsors' story, this book completes the story of Wallis' life and gives a few more details about their lives that previous books have not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ravel on March 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
It struck me that for who may still despise Wallis Simpson for what she had «done» in her colorful life, the turn of events in the last years of her life must have looked like a just retribution for having made Edward abdicate. Ms Blum, as described by the author of this truly interesting book, appears like a manic-depressive-split-personality Devil who came to torture her while she was still barely alive.

This very sad episode is told by Blackwood (who herself led quite a life!) in such a way with words, as if she intended to rival with her several examples of the Duchess «bons mots» she enumerates. What could have been a very depressing book startles with a continuous array's of humorous situations that are, in plain reality, simply atrocious. Irony made this book palatable. But situation was no joke.

There is a good number of books out there about Wallis Simpson and Edward. I didn't read them all and I don't intend to, unless somebody tells me wich biography is truly the best one. But if you are already well informed about the saga of one of the most talked about Lady of the 20th Century, this book will certainly add a different twist to your knowledge...

(Gladly, anew Pb edition is coming soon. I can't believe I see 100$ for my Pantheon edition I paid 5$ for...)
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By Es on February 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Caroline displays a great picture of the lawyer and pulls you into the last years of the duchess's life(without seeing her).
I like her witty remarks about the lawyer very funny. Caroline looks at the house from the
outside and remarks" maybe they are turning the duchess, in her bed now!" Makes you feel as if you are
actually there watching the house trying to see or get a glimpse of the poor old, tiny, sick lonely duchess of Windsor.
My heart broke when Caroline explained the photo (Hugo owns) she saw of duchess being carried by her nurse.It amazes me
how the lawyer is lying about the state the duchess is in" she talks a lot !"
She was paralyzed, hands crippled, her eye sight disappearing tube fed from her nose. I guess the lawyer wanted the duchess to be known perfect as always.I admire the duchess of Windsor and the duke always. I believe she did have great friends around her but they have not done something about her isolation and loneliness and the poor state of her room and house.They were scared from the lawyer like all of them in case she sued them! It is incredible how elegantly the Duchess was dressed in every single picture and how the duke always cared for her and cherished her till the end.
I enjoyed this book very much and please read it. I heard that it was published after the lawyer died.Even though it was completed before.She must have been some strong scary lady!
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By Readerrover on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As my heading suggests, I was really disappointed in this book.

The author spends far more time talking about her reactions to the difficulties in dealing with the "protection" offered the Duchess than the biography of the Duchess herself.

I realize the focus was on the last years of the Duchess' life but still, there was little of that, and maybe because the author was restricted from actually meeting the Duchess.

I was NOT interested in the author's reactions on being refused an interview nor in her personal feelings about the doctor who did the restricting.

In summary - there are better and more informative books out there about the Duchess of Windsor. If that's what you want, I'd suggest exploring them rather than this one.
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By Sue Beej on October 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Caroline Blackwood is as vicious if not as much of a pathetic voyeur as Maitre Blum, the formidable Duchesse's 'jailor". Well written maybe- but there is something profoundly disturbing by the way the author continually harps on the late Duchess of Windsor with all sort of degrading epithets. The last chapter where Caroline Blackwood describes wanting to dash past the butler George to have a look at the Duchess depicts a most vulgar curiosity and distasteful yearning to see and gloat over a woman who was lying there dying in a vegetative state.
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