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The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose…

The Darkness of Wallis Simpson

by Rose Tremain

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This is not the complete book, but just the actual short story in the collection by the same name.
It's quite a grim tale of Wallis Simpson's last years, where she is obviously dementing and there is some strange person/carer/jailer who is looking after her and who keeps pressing her to remember details of her life with her third husband, which are long gone.
Instead, Wallis reviews all odd snippets from other parts of her early life and marriages and you get an idea of where she came from and influences that may have created the person that she became.
Although certain things may try to make the reader gain sympathy for her, and indeed nobody would wish an end-of-life story like this on anyone, I'm afraid my opinion of Wallis Simpson really hasn't changed from the one I had before reading this short story, though her ending, which apparently did happen like this, was quite sad. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
I didn't read the book. I listened to the radio play preparatory to reading [b:That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor|10866215|That Woman The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor|Anne Sebba|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330066232s/10866215.jpg|15781412]. I was impressed by the script, less so by the story. This is just a brief review because the words of the author on her own book illuminate this strange, dark play better than I can.


Since she and her husband, the King Edward VIII who abdicated for her (the only king to have ever abdicated by his own free will in the UK) were best mates with Hitler and Edward was to be restored as (the puppet) king when Hitler rolled in triumphant to the defeated UK, I think the whole entire world got served best by his abdication. She was just a money-hungry adventurer, and the entire mystery lies in what this plain woman had that attracted so many men, so much money and created so much scandal.

( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
This is the first time that I have read short stories by Rose Tremain and I was amazed at her skill in this difficult form of prose. "The Darkness of Wallis Simpson" is the longest story and appears to have been first published in this book. It is the story of the heartbreaking emotional war between the dying and demented Simpson and her possessive and controlling lawyer. The remaining stories are a delight. This is a very readable book, I finished it in an evening. ( )
  bhowell | Feb 15, 2009 |
This is a wonderful book and the title story is an absolutely fascinating look at the last days of the Duchess of Windsor's life as she lay in a coma, aided by the evil Maitre Blum. Every story in this book is exquisite. I just discovered this author (like Alan Bennett) and cannot wait to read more. ( )
  mgaulding | Mar 27, 2008 |
Some authors were made to write novel-length prose. Some were born to write words in short story chunks. Then there are those who manage to do both well. I'm not sure which categorisation Rose Tremain would fit in - if one would even dare to do so - but let me take a gamble: I have a sneaking suspicion she belongs in the first category.

Having won the Whitbread Novel of the Year in 1996 for Music and Silence and received praising reviews for her latest novel, The Colour, Rose Tremain is undeniably a good novelist. It was with this knowledge I armed myself with before expecting to enjoy her latest collection of twelve short stories, The Darkness of Wallis Simpson.

The title story imagines the last years of Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American who King Edward VIII abdicated for in 1936. Tremain takes this true story and spins it into a tale filled with whimsy and irony. Wallis Simpson is dying but why can she only remember her first two husbands - one abusive the other kind yet boring - but not her third, world-famous husband? Her lawyer, Maitre Suzanne Blum, forces her to remember but it only ends in frustration: "Wallise! Talk to me. Don't pretend anymore. Pretence is so ungrateful! He gave up an Empire for you. An Empire! And you pretend to remember nothing. But I 'ave sworn to myself I shall not rest, I shall not return to my legal practice nor go again into the world until you admit to me that do remember."

The other stories take their cue from the initial story and continue the theme of loss, divorce, family, longing, etc. such as in "The Beauty of the Dawn Shift", concerning a guard on the east side of the Berlin Wall finding the familiarity of the old regime threatened by the looming threat of capitalism when Germany reunites. He cycles across a wintery Poland hoping to find his past in Russia: "Since childhood, he'd admired the stern ways of his country, and he hoped to find these still prevailing in Russia." This story, along with some of the other stories, like "The Ebony Hand" about a spinster who has to take care of her niece; "The Over-Ride", about a man who as a child, loved to sit outside an apartment of a musician couple; and "Moth", about a baby who grows wings, are the ones that make the book worth a read.

The other stories seem only to act as filler, and are oft times uninspired and meandering. In "Nativity Story", her annoying use of adverbs even mars the story flow:
"'Oh, nothing,' he said vaguely. 'She's just having her baby.'
'Having her what?' I said stupidly."

Ultimately though, it is Rose Tremain's ability to weave wonderful prose about the fragility of the human condition - frequently taking place in an understated historical moment in time - that manage to make this collection worth at least a read. ( )
  tedmahsun | Sep 12, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099268566, Paperback)

A wonderful new collection of short stories, most of which are published here for the first time.

Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, ended her life (as the Duchess of Windsor) as the prisoner of her lawyer who would not allow anyone — friend, foe or journalist — to visit her in her Paris flat. Rose Tremain takes this true story and transforms it into an imaginative and ironic fiction. Her thesis is that Wallis, gaga and bed-ridden, had forgotten the king who gave up an empire for love of her.

This superb story plays with the selectiveness of memory: why does Wallis recall the seemingly unimportant, while forgetting the glory days of her notoriety? She can remember her first two husbands — one a bit of a brute, the other very boring — but not the world-famous third one.

The other stories in this magnificent collection range over a variety of themes, equally original and unexpected: an East German border guard, redundant after the Berlin Wall comes down in 1989, imagines that he might still have a purpose in life. He tries to reach Russia by bicycling across the hostile wastes of Poland. A jilted man gets his revenge. A baby grows wings. A character in an Impressionist painting escapes from his “frame” — or does he? And there’s a Christmas story set in a seedy hotel.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:30 -0400)

Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, ended her life as the prisoner of her lawyer who would not allow anyone - friend, foe or journalist to visit her in her Paris flat. Rose Tremain turns this story into an ironic fiction. The other stories range over a variety of themes.… (more)

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