Friday, October 18, 2013

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for William Kuhn's debut novel, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train.

I'm a bit tight on time here and find the publisher's synopsis of this book quite cute, so I've decided to cheat and use it this time:

After decades of service and years of watching her family's troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain's Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for King's Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a characterful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty's cheese set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

While much of the book is quite lighthearted and silly (the idea of The Queen donning a hoodie and sneaking out of the castle, for example), Mrs. Queen Takes the Train is amazingly realistic. I really wasn't surprised to learn that Kuhn's previous works were biographies as, in my opinion, this book does actually read a bit like a bio. What I mean by that is that each of Kuhn's characters, The Queen included, feels real: while the abovementioned hoodie sporting Queen is certainly giggleworthy, the way Kuhn tells each part of the story makes the whole of it believable on top of amusing.

And there are some serious parts as well. The fact that The Queen is upset about the possible retirement of the royal train is just one of many examples of a sort of analysis of the monarchy and their traditions. The PM points out to The Queen that the train isn't cost effective and that public sentiment would likely support a more inexpensive - and modern - mode of travel, to which Kuhn's Queen responds, "The monarchy does not exist to be modern..."

The characters in the book cover a full spectrum of the British population - we have The Queen herself as well as a number of people in her service and her periphery: Luke, the equerry, recently returned form Iraq and still dealing with the loss of a very close friend; Rajiv, a young man of Indian descent who doesn't quite feel he belongs in either England or India; Shirley MacDonald, The Queen's most senior "dresser" and a woman who's given her life to service. All of these characters and many more outline a number of facets of this society in terms of age, politics and worldviews, and class division.

All in all, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train can be read as an enjoyable piece of fiction or as an examination of English society and the monarchy wrapped up in an enjoyable piece of fiction. Either way it's a fun and entertaining read.

Rating: 3.5/5

To see more stops on the tour, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on William Kuhn and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


William said...

Thank you Becky!

Bill Kuhn

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I really enjoy fun books like this so I'll definitely be seeking out a copy.

Thanks for being on the tour!

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...

A cute one if it were a movie but not for me reading wise.