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Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 16, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 319 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“You’ll come away thinking Her Majesty, at least this fictional one, charming, caring, thoughtful and brave. . . . A delightful escape. We can only hope there are more train rides in Her Majesty’s future.” (USA Today)

“[A] charmer of a first novel. . . . This Elizabeth is delightful, slyly funny company. You’ll never look at the real one the same way again.” (People (3 ½ stars))

“Poignant and sweet, MRS QUEEN TAKES THE TRAIN is a comic study of the British class system, an unusual testament to the possibilities of friendship outside normal comfort zones and an affirmation of the humanity within all of us.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“A delightful read, a bit of fiction (the train journey) set into nonfiction (everything else), and a sly look at how the monarchy is changing along with—or maybe two beats behind—the rest of Britain.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“A witty, contemporary story of the Downton Abbey-esque tensions between servants and employers, the young and the old, and tradition and modernity.” (Glamour.com)

“This book is the perfect cup of tea for the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Give it to lovers of all things British. It’s also a good bet for fans of Alexander McCall Smith.” (Booklist)

“Kuhn explores not only the queen’s inner life, but the Downtown Abbey style-tensions between servants and royals, the old guard and the new. . . . Royal watchers and students of class alike will enjoy this smart. . . tale.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Kuhn’s first novel ought to find an avid readership among the filmgoers who flocked to The King’s Speech and The Queen. . . . An affectionate, sympathetic but also unstinting look at the woman inside the sovereign.” (Kirkus)

From the Back Cover

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Firsttion ed. edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062208284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062208286
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Not so much Sarah Palin-style, but she has slipped her handlers. It started innocuously enough. Elizabeth (or "Little Bit" as she addresses herself) has been feeling rather blue. The monarchy has taken more than a few hits in the last several years. After a visit to her favorite horse, the stable girl loans The Queen a "hoodie," as it has begun sleeting outside. This unusual attire, adorned with skull and crossbones, lends her instant anonymity, and she simply can't resist embarking upon a small adventure. A jaunt to the local cheese shop segues into an impromptu trip to Scotland.

Back at the palace, panic ensues. A small band of The Queen's most loyal staff brainstorm about where she could have gone. They're determined to corral her back home before the press and public get wind of the fact that she's missing and unattended.

This is non-fiction writer William Kuhn's debut novel, and he's off to a winning start. There have been many comparisons between Mrs. Queen Takes the Train and Alan Bennett's perennial favorite, The Uncommon Reader. The comparisons are somewhat apt, and not even Kuhn is dodging them:

"'Did you read the one about The Queen becoming a reader?' said the woman in spectacles to the young man at her side. `I did enjoy that one. So funny. And of course, being a reader myself, I liked that side of it.'"

That's the sort of awkward subject that can crop up when you're a queen conversing with commoners in mufti. But actually, The Queen's interactions with her subjects are gentle and surely eye-opening.

Kuhn's story is told not only from the monarch's POV, but also from that of the staff pursuing her. These are likeable and only slightly damaged individuals.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is told not only from the Queen's perspective but also from that of some of her attendants. When they discover that she has maybe taken the train to Scotland, they follow suit in pairs. What follows is a story about modern England, about old values, becoming friends, homosexuality, war trauma's and a lost son.

The plot is a bit on the light side and the fun of this book comes from the way it is written and from the way the characters relate to each other. A butler and an equerry partially come out of the closet that they never knew they were in. A lady in waiting and a dresser who loathed each other for years travel together and become friends. The Queen herself learns to talk to common people and about the price of a train ticket to the North.

It was a pleasure to read this book. Recommended to anyone who likes a well-written, but light and gentle read.
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Format: Hardcover
My husband bought this book for me as a surprise gift. I immediately picked it up and began reading. I was pleased that it was about The Queen in real time and I liked the six characters that surrounded her. Using past events during The Queen's current reign, the author skillfully presents The Queen as a human being who, at the age of 80+, reflects on her life and the mistakes she has made or how she now sees things from a different point of view (the Diana years). In some ways, this makes the reader more gentle about these times and events. This also gives The Queen a real live person quality that separates her, only briefly, from the invisible walls of the monarchy. And still, (and this is the skillful part), the author does not reduce her status as a monarch. We still see her as someone apart from us but not different from us. There still remains an element of mystery about who The Queen is. Her reflections have boundaries and the reader is left to imagine on his/her own what The Queen's next thoughts will be. The six characters that provide the basis for the plot are interesting and fun. My criticism of the book is slight and should not be a deterrent to someone who may want to try this book out. I wanted to find out more about one or two of the minor characters that The Queen encounters on her 'road trip.' But, I understand the author's intent on these characters. Kristine Mika
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Format: Hardcover
because William Kuhn must have been looking in the windows! Based on all the documentaries I saw on the palace during the olympics, this book describes palace life perfectly. This is a very nice story - most enjoyable - and I would recommend it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was expecting a very light, humorous story about a very fictitious portrayal of an iconic figure. It is funny at times but it's actually a very well written and engaging novel, not so much about the Queen, but about what it means to be human. I don't think everyone will like this book. For those who are fascinated with British royalty and culture, it will be a very good read. But it also appeals on a heart-warming level to the random reader as well. It's an interesting look at how the queen might think and feel. It gives some interesting insight, not only into the psyche of Queen Elizabeth II but also to a wide array of characters from various walks of life. I think the point of the book is to illustrate that we're all human and we can all relate to each other on some level. It's about not making swift judgements and assumptions that you know what another person's character is all about. While it is nothing like another good book, Chocolat by Joanne Harris, it has similarities in the way that it looks at the motivations of the character's inner workings and how they relate to one another. The author has done a huge amount of research on this book. There are a few stretches to fact and imagination, but it is a work of fiction after all and not a history book. If you're looking for a quick, summer read that will touch your heart, I highly recommend it!
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