Review published on September 2, 2017.
When I read the synopsis of this book, I knew it was a book I had to read. From being small I always loved the Royal Family. I still find them fascinating even now when there’s very little mystery surrounding them. So a book that combines the life of Wallis Simpson and the aftermath of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was always going to appeal to me.
The obvious link between the two women is that they both, in their own way, caused a massive earthquake within the Royal Family. Wallis Simpson famously made Edward VIII so smitten with her that he abdicated the throne for her. And we all know about Diana’s incredible effect on the world. But in this book there is another link which I’m not going to tell you about (read the book!).
The Wallis side of the story is all about her and her school friend, Mary Kirk. The story is about their friendship, which lasts for many years, but Wallis’s story is told from Mary’s viewpoint so we see Wallis through an observer’s eyes. Wallis is portrayed exactly as I expected her to be: selfish and flirtatious. I knew nothing about Mary but she definitely came out of the story in the best of lights and was the perfect antidote to Wallis really. The Diana part of the book, however, does not focus on her but is about Rachel and her partner, Alex, who find themselves behind Diana’s car in the Alma Tunnel on that fateful night. Alex is a documentary maker and immediately turns to the obvious subject for a programme but Rachel has reservations about his motivation. Meanwhile, Rachel is running her vintage clothing shop and I loved that that was how she made her living. There’s quite a bit of detail about the items she’s selling there and I found this really interesting, especially when it helped to link other threads (excuse the pun) of the story.
I do love a book that combines fact and fiction. It’s clear that the author has done a lot of research for this book, but she also weaves fictional elements in seamlessly and I was pleased to see there were author’s notes at the back of the book, explaining what was true and what wasn’t as I could well have believed that it was all based on fact. It was so well done.
I thought this was a really fabulous read. Right up my street with the dual time frame, the Royal connection and the history. The characters are well portrayed, both the real ones and the fictional ones. I was interested in all of their stories. The two sides of the story are told a couple of chapters at a time before we swap over and I love books that drip feed a story to the reader in that way. All in all this was a delight to read and although it’s my first Gill Paul novel I just happen to have all of her others waiting to be read and I think her writing is something I will enjoy again in the future.
Nicola Smith 5/4
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Headline Review 9781472249111 pbk Nov 2017
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