Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Julie's Review: Abdication

Summary: England, 1936. The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.

During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach. Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences. Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May. May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war. ~amazon.com

Review: Abdication was an interesting character study if you happened to care about the characters, which unfortunately I did not. I never felt the plot went anywhere either. I understood what Ms. Nicholson was trying to do, she wanted us to view the abdication of King Edward VIII's from different view points. Unfortunately, I didn't think any of them really cared that much and were caught up in their own lives and the drama that was their own.

While I found May to be intriguing, I felt that her past with her father was a bit stilted. I felt there should have been a little more emotional fall out from the situation. It seems a little too tied up neatly with a bow to really have some punch. I did thoroughly enjoy the relationship between Sam and May. They seemed to really understand the value of family.

Other than to provide an insiders look at how Edward and Willis' affair affected those around them, I felt that Evangeline didn't really offer much to the story. The idea of a love triangle between her, Julian and May felt forced and unauthentic. I felt nothing but pity for her because she was a lonely women with no one that really cared for her.

I know that this is Ms. Nicholson's first foray into historical fiction but perhaps her next one should have more of a hook.

Final Take: 3/5



Literate Housewife October 17, 2012 at 8:17 PM  

I really enjoyed the book, which I read in audio. I think that probably influenced my opinion because the narrator was fantastic. I actually liked that the actual abdication was in the background. Given all of the other things going on, it truly did pale in comparison. I'm sorry you didn't like it and I can understand why you didn't. If May felt forced to you, that would be difficult to overcome.

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