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Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 16, 2012
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“[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 withor maybe two beats behindthe 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.
More About the Author
You might be interested in a conversation of Mrs Queen's recently overheard at Balmoral. It's about the baby! http://www.williamkuhn.com/bio.htm
The Weinstein Company bought a film option on Mrs Queen and I can't wait to see what they do with the book. Will keep you posted!
Before this I wrote Reading Jackie about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's personality as revealed through the books she edited at Viking and Doubleday.
Everyone knows about the White House parties, the marriages, the pretty dresses and the yacht in Greece, but did you know about the woman whose greatest passion was for her books? In her declining months, she was still at work making suggestions to her authors from her sickbed.
Her publishing years lasted longer than her two marriages combined. She produced both hits and misses, but publishing professionals today still admire her list. Not bad for a career she only came to and learned in her mid 40s.
Mine is the first book ever commissioned by Doubleday on their former employee and many of her colleagues talk here for the first time. Nancy Tuckerman remembered taking Jackie down to the Doubleday cafeteria. Jackie loaded up her tray, breezed by the cash registers, and sat down at a table. Nancy joined her saying, "Did you pay Jackie?" "Oh," said Jackie, "Do you have to pay?"
I've also done books on Victorian prime ministers and the British monarchy.
I taught for more than twenty years at the college and university level, where the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities both supported my research.
I hope you like my books! :-)
Here's a video of me talking about Jackie at the Boston Athenaeum: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/HerAu
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
It is amidst this change in Britain, the public despair over Diana's death and the national outcry against the monarch's handling of the tragedy, the loss of the yacht, the impending loss of the royal train, the reduction of her small fleet of planes to one aging helicopter, her inability to grasp the simplest computer skills, her own sense of uselessness in her blind agreement to fulfill a ceremonial role that no one really cared about, that The Queen uses this brief vacation from Buckingham palace to re access her own life and her role within her nation.
Elizabeth's only guide thus far had been her great great grandmother, Victoria. When in doubt, Elizabeth would consult Victoria's diaries to help her know and understand what was required of her. Her own father was nat raised to be a king and she had virtually no relationships with anyone else who enjoyed that rarefied job description of King or Queen. But the modern world had moved on from the victorian age and The Queen's journey beyond the palace walls server as an introduction the the modern world that we all know.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Firstly, I'm English, and saw this book on my local (US) library shelf. The cover (a different one from that pictured) interested me, and the inside cover synopsis was intriguing. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Patty R
I love this book. Didn't want it to end. I would love more of the same. Such a good read.Published 1 month ago by M. Schouten
I thorough enjoyed this book. It is fiction but also gave some insight into the Queen's life. She talked a lot about the muses which are the royal stables. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dixie
Interesting insight about royalty. I never realized it was such a lonely lifestyle, being unable to get out and mingle with the public. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Pat Rosvall