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. “
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, then you know that I devour any book about the British royal family, especially the historical ones. For many years I bought into the story that Edward VIII gave up his throne for the love of Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, a twice-divorced American. It was the perfect sort of love story for an American like me. I thought that’s what Abdication (Amazon) would be about because of the name of the book alone. I was wrong.
I actually listened to this book months ago, when Mom’s health was faltering and I was swamped at work. I didn’t have the time to write up a review at the time and it faded from my memory as dozens of audiobooks and months followed. So I tried to listen to it again and it all came back to me. It was boring AF, no offense. The book is only peripherally about David and Wallis, and all about May, a character so lackluster I found myself wondering why I was giving the book a second chance.
In fact, all the characters lack pizazz, except for Wallis and Edward, and they weren’t involved in the story enough to make me care one way or another. The struggles and joys the others felt meant nothing to me. The author didn’t do enough to make me want to care about them
And that’s why, half-way through my second listen, I gave it a big old DNF. The book should have been named something else besides Abdication, because it’s implied that would be a big part of the story, but it isn’t. And that’s too bad, because that’s the sort of book I would have liked.
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