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Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel by…
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Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel (edition 2012)

by William Kuhn

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2212652,306 (3.78)25
Member:maggiee
Title:Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel
Authors:William Kuhn
Info:Harper (2012), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:2012 challenge, borrowed book, library book, fiction, England, friendship, monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II, travel

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Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

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The publisher says: An absolute delight of a debut novel by William Kuhn...Mrs Queen Takes the Train wittily imagines the kerfuffle that transpires when a bored Queen Elizabeth strolls out of the palace in search of a little fun, leaving behind a desperate team of courtiers who must find the missing Windsor before a national scandal erupts. Reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, this lively, wonderfully inventive romp takes readers into the mind of the grand matriarch of Britain’s Royal Family, bringing us an endearing runaway Queen Elizabeth on the town—and leading us behind the Buckingham Palace walls and into the upstairs/downstairs spaces of England’s monarchy.

My impression: What a fun book! This light, cheery, and surprisingly introspective work looks at the burdens of isolation, old age, and changing mores not just in Merry Olde England, but with enough panache to allow us to apply it anywhere. Some might see it merely as a somewhat pedantic view of the value of maintaining a monarchy. Kuhn chooses to portray a Queen who is struggling to do her duty as she has been taught and to be human with all the fatigue, self-doubt, and anxiety that goes with growing old, watching loved ones die, worrying about children, and trying to figure out what life is all about before it's over.

Just imagine Her Majesty traipsing through the streets of rainy London with no umbrella, wearing her trademark head scarf and a borrowed hoody with a skull and crossbones on the back.  It can only get better from there.  This one is a short read, but is not one to be brushed aside. For me it was a perfect palate cleanser from a steady diet of ponderous, dark, and often pompous literary fiction. Books like this one make reading fun, and at the same time give us a glimpse of what might be ahead.

I got this one in audio because it was right there for the picking. It was a great choice. Definitely recommended.  ( )
1 vote tututhefirst | Mar 10, 2014 |
This was a fun adventure. More action than Uncommon Reader, but reminded me of it. I liked the characters and really enjoyed the story. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Reading this was a lot of fun. Maybe it is not as good as Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, but still it very enjoyable, with a cast of characters who are entertaining and appealing. The character of the Queen is beautifully done and the whole book is both funny and mildly thought provoking about the usually very ordinary lives other people live. ( )
  janglen | Jan 21, 2014 |
Full review at
This">http://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/read-it-if-the-gargoyles-reviews-for-the-time-poor-or-goldfish-sized-attention-spans/

This
is a delightful little read that is perfect for those times when you just need a bit of light-heartedness to lift your mood. There's nothing particularly cerebral going on here, but there are plenty of quirky characters to keep you engaged, not least of whom is old ER herself. In a hoodie. On a public train. Really, what more could you want? ( )
1 vote BruceGargoyle | Oct 20, 2013 |
It must be difficult being famous. To be so surrounded by others for security and so tightly scheduled that you can't deviate from the usual and have no chance to do things on the spur of the moment could certainly become chafing, especially after years of living this way. It must be a bit like when you're young and you have to wait for mommy all the time before you could do the most intriguing things, simple things like crossing the street and other great adventures of that ilk. In William Kuhn's new novel, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, Queen Elizabeth defies the strictures under which she's lived most of her life, leaves Buckingham Palace incognito, and takes a train north all because she wants to visit the moored Britannia, the decommissioned royal yacht where she once spent many happy hours. Her disappearance brings together very disparate members of her household in the effort to locate her and keep her safe without alerting the press and her subjects to her absence.

The Queen is having one of those days we all face, a day where she is vaguely down and can't decide what she wants to do with herself so she chooses to start with her horses, visiting the royal Mews and speaking with a stable hand, Rebecca, who notices that Her Majesty is not dressed for the weather and subsequently gives the Queen her own hoodie, emblazoned with a skull on the back. It is in this completely out of character clothing that the Queen is not recognized by some workers, giving her the idea that she could take a small trip to other spots that have given her pleasure long ago. And so she heads out without so much as a by your leave to anyone at the palace. Interspersed with the Queen's unusual peregrinations, are woven the stories of several of her staff, those who will form a tense and worried alliance as they set out to find HRH. These include Rebecca, the stable hand in the Mews whose hoodie the Queen is wearing on her walkabout and who, like some of her charges, is spooked by people and only at ease with animals; Rajiv, a clerk at a local cheese shop who has hired on occasionally for events at the Palace and who has snapped undercover photos of the Queen to later sell to the tabloids; the Queen's equerry Luke, who is a decorated young veteran still grappling with a terrible loss in the war; William, one of the butlers to the Queen, a man to whom his job is a calling and who takes immense pride in doing it well even if it means that his life outside his work is a lonely one; the Queen's dresser, Shirley, who followed her mother and grandmother into service at the palace and who harbors a real affection for the Queen, and Lady Anne, one of the Queen's ladies in waiting who accepts these opportunities at the palace in order to supplement her very meager widow's income and whose son has long been estranged from her.

The stories of each of these very different people come out in flashbacks and ruminations as the story progresses and they follow the Queen to Edinburgh, learning more about each other and delving beneath the surface impressions to the real core of the person beneath. And the Queen on her walkabout has the chance to interact with regular British people from all walks of life beyond the well-scripted engagements, openings, and events on her social calendar. She learns some uncomfortable truths about the monarchy and the vision of what it means to a modern day Britain, leading her to wonder if she can fit into the modern world, one of baffling computers and technology, or if she's as much a relic of times past as the royal train (now on the chopping block) and the Britannia (simply a tourist attraction). In addition to the question of the place of the monarchy in today's world, the varied people in the Queen's employ and those she encounters during her incognito journey highlight many other prevalent social issues as well: racism, gay rights and homophobia, poverty--genteel and otherwise, animal rights, etc. Kuhn has done a marvelous job weaving all of these together into a delightful and charming read without negating their import. There's a real depth of heart here in this lovely novel. Anglophiles will love it as much for the look into upper and working class realities as for the humanizing view of one of the world's longest reigning monarchs. ( )
2 vote whitreidtan | Oct 16, 2013 |
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Several years ago, on a dark afternoon in December, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Defender of the Faith, Duchess of Edinburgh, Countess of Merioneth, Baroness Greenwich, Duke of Lancaster, Lord of Mann, Duke of Normandy sat at her desk, frowning at a computer screen.
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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. 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. When her royal attendants discovers she is missing, they set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.… (more)

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