Lost Autumn / The True Story of Maddie Bright

Written by Mary-Rose MacColl
Review by Janice Ottersberg

In 1920, following WWI, Edward, Prince of Wales, tours Australia. Maddie, Rupert, and Helen are part of his personal staff. Seventeen-year-old Maddie Bright is hired to read and draft responses to the letters pouring in for Edward. She becomes friends with Rupert, the Prince’s lifelong companion and personal secretary, and Helen, his press secretary and speechwriter. During the tour Maddie is captivated by the train’s glamorous surroundings, but as her eyes are opened to another world, her naiveté and the illusion of royalty are shattered, with profound effect.

The novel begins with a story about the tragic loss of an infant in 1921. It then moves between 1918, 1920, 1981, and 1997 in Australia and London. Maddie achieves her dream as a writer with a book based on Rupert and Helen’s broken love in WWI France, and the beginnings of a second book. Excerpts from her two novels are interspersed throughout Lost Autumn. In 1981, an elderly Maddie lives alone in her decrepit childhood home in Brisbane while still working on her long-awaited second novel. She watches news stories of Lady Diana’s engagement to Prince Charles with a sense of foreboding. In London in 1997, Victoria, a journalist, has been assigned to cover Princess Diana’s death in Paris. Victoria is engaged to a famous actor, and her life mirrors Princess Diana’s relationship with the press. Including Princess Diana in the storyline seems an attempt to tie royalty into the later storylines, but it fails. When Victoria is assigned to interview Maddie in Australia, an unexpected relationship develops.

With five different time periods and numerous plotlines, this novel is fractured and unwieldy. It is burdened with two books within a book and three love stories with three accompanying unplanned pregnancies. The picture of life on the Royal Tour is the most interesting portion, but it isn’t enough to redeem this disappointing book.