Abdication

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Abdication takes its title from the Abdication Crisis of 1936, but it could as easily have been entitled 1936. Starting in January, it goes through to December, mentioning everything of importance that happened in Britain, whether relevant to the abdication or not, and everybody who was anybody, if only in passing. Thus when the young couple (not Edward and Wallis) have their first full sexual contact, they notice Virginia Woolf further along the beach and exchange a wave. And of course they visit Wigan and meet, if not George Orwell himself, at least some of his friends.

The two main protagonists both arrive in Britain in January 1936. May, from Barbados, becomes chauffeur (definitely not chauffeuse) to the Government Chief Whip, meaning that she can travel a lot and meet important people, including the King and Wallis Simpson. Evangeline, from Baltimore, is a school-friend of Wallis on a family visit to England. May finds love, Evangeline finds disappointment, and the book ends with the Crystal Palace fire.

Juliet Nicolson is a distinguished social historian of the inter-war years, and it shows. I quite like this, but the background tends to swamp the narrative.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award

Details

Publisher
,

Published

Century

Price
(US) $25.00
(UK) £16.99

ISBN
(US) 9781451658835
(UK) 9781408823088

Format
Hardback

Pages
361 (UK), 352 (US)

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