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That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor Hardcover – February 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The story has been told many times but never seems to get old. Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, took up with King Edward VIII of England, and, in 1936, he abdicated to marry her, which he couldn’t have done had he remained on the throne. Forever afterward, they drifted aimlessly as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The central question has been, as Sebba poses it, “How could a middle-aged, not especially beautiful, rather masculine-looking woman have exerted such a powerful effect on a king that he gave up his throne in order to possess her?” Wallis met and mesmerized the future king when he was still Prince of Wales, and “it was her assurance, poise and buoyancy that the Prince admired, as he could not see the underlying insecurity.” The author makes it clear that Wallis never intended to become the queen, but once she embarked on her affair, she found it impossible to back out, and when the prince suddenly became king, marriage was not what she had planned. Sexual proclivities and domineering personality traits all factor into Sebba’s picture of the Windsor relationship. For popular biography collections. --Brad Hooper

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Brought to brilliant light in this responsible, respectful biography. (Booklist on Jennie Churchill)

A rigorously objective book… Fascinating. (Financial Times on Mother Teresa)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Thus edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250002966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250002969
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

309 of 329 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Sharp TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Many years ago, in December 1936, my mother had me by the hand as we went Christmas shopping in Robinson's department store in Los Angeles. Carols were loudly playing from speakers all over the store. Suddenly the music stopped abruptly and all the shoppers stopped what they were doing as though they were playing "statues." Everybody gazed at the silent speakers. Presently a man's melodious voice broke the silence. It was Edward VIII renouncing the throne for the woman he loved. My six year old heart was thrilled and I became an Anglophile on the spot. I had to grow up to be disillusioned by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor but I am still an Anglophile.

"That Woman" is the first biography of Wallis written by a woman but author Anne Sebba does not get closer to the real Wallis than the men. At the beginning of the biography the author plunges right in by defining what Wallis was all about. What made her tick. She also describes in detail the outfits and jewelry the Duchess wore which will appeal to women readers more than to men, I think. But the dress instincts of Wallis defined her. For her appearances were everything.

Her father died just five months after her birth and although her mother remarried the family was often living in near poverty in Baltimore. Wallis, however, had a sugar-daddy, her Uncle Sol who sent Wallis to an exclusive girls' boarding school called Oldfields. Wallis thirsted after the trappings of wealth, of society and the company of men. She was boy-crazy at a very young age. She wanted to pull herself up by her bootstraps if necessary and enter a higher social plane. Ambition to be somebody was a driving force in her character.
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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anne Sebba hits many of the moods and ideas of the era of `That Woman', such as the belief that tuberculosis was an embarrassing disease, especially for an upper social strata family like Wallis' family. We begin at her birth and some of the unknowns about that and her father's frail health. Sebba has completed much research, including papers and letters just now open to view; however the results do not uncover much new information. This reads a great deal like other works published about the Duchess of Windsor, including `The Heart has its Reasons', which is quoted frequently.

What is contained in this book though is the extensive speculation regarding the Duchess' supposed chromosomal abnormalities- her masculine traits and the rumors of her activities during her time in the Far East where she is rumored to have learned many of the methods used in the local dens of iniquity. Very little good is said about the Duchess in these pages. She is described by most as crass and vulgar, naughty when she was young, hateful and poking fun at the Duke of Windsor after they were married.
At one point the author steps into the narrative to tell how she was able to read some just released papers, but again, there is not anything stunningly different from the other books written about this `love affair'. What are done well are the descriptions of the attitude of the British people toward the monarchy and the complete obliviousness of both the Prince of Wales and Wallis on the ramifications of their affair.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba. About 20 years ago, I was on a big Edward and Wallis-kick and read every book that I could find on the Windsors. When I read that Sebba used new source materials, I expected something exciting. Instead, That Woman proved to be a big disappointment, and all the old (big) questions remain unanswered.

The story of Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson is very well known. King Edward VIII gave up his throne in 1936 to marry the twice divorced Wallis Simpson. Edward (called David by his family) was handsome, charming, self-absorbed, vain and immature. He also had no sense of duty. His father, King George V, predicted that after his death, his son would ruin himself in 12 months. Edward's refusal to give up Wallis created a constitutional crisis that led to his abdication. His brother, Bertie, ascended to the throne as King George VI. Afterward, Wallis and Edward lived a frivolous, unproductive and unfulfilling life in exile. They were never accepted by the Royal Family, they never moved back to England, and Wallis was never awarded the title Her Royal Highness. Their life was a "mismatch between public glamour and private anguish."

Sebba touches on many key questions about Wallis and Edward, but unfortunately, never provides real answers. Was Edward homosexual or bisexual? Did he have some sexual-physical limitations? Did Wallis suffer from a chromosomal abnormality? Was she really attracted to homosexual men? Did she learn sexual tricks to please a man while living in Shanghai? What truly happened to Queen Alexandra's jewels--especially her emeralds? And how far did Wallis and Edward go to help the Nazi cause?
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