The Windsor Faction
It is the first few months of the Second World War, and the British are in that curiously suspended situation, wondering when, if ever, the fighting will start. But this is a different history – for in this story Wallis Simpson died on the operating table in 1936 and King Edward VIII mooches unproductively around Windsor Castle, grieving for his mistress. The King’s opposition to the war is well known, and inchoate groups of right-wingers, anti-Semites, pacifists, appeasers and general eccentrics emerges to keep Britain from getting embroiled in a disastrous military conflict with Germany, hoping that the King will provide a focus for their aims. The writer Beverley Nichols is invited to help the King with his Christmas Day broadcast, and when Edward VIII delivers pacifist opinions at odds with government policy, matters come to a head.
Cynthia Kirkpatrick, who works on the staff of a new literary review has family connections with members of the “Faction”, and begins a love affair with Tyler Kent, a US diplomat who supports an isolationist policy. Cynthia has no particular support for the appeasers, and is a likeable and sympathetic character who, towards the end of the story, gets dragged into playing a central role in some serious events.
This is an absorbing and well-written novel. Very often it is amusing in an almost Wodehousian manner with DJ Taylor’s closely-observed descriptions of the more ludicrous behaviour of some of the characters a delight.