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by D.J. Taylor

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60598-478-0
Publisher: Pegasus

An amusing historical novel and piece of alternative history from Taylor (Derby Day, 2012, etc.).

The book is set in England in the years leading up to World War II: Here, Wallis Simpson, the American woman Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry, dies in December 1936. Edward remains king and participates in a conspiracy of British Fascists. Several real people have prominent roles in the novel, and their fates are not unlike what happened in real life. The plot is a plot, a conspiracy. Members of Parliament and lowly factotums in faux antiques shops all play a role, passing messages, delivering mysterious packages. Our protagonist is the plucky Cynthia Kirkpatrick, a young, fey colonial returned from Ceylon. She moves in the social circles of those who make history, but she’s on the periphery. Back in London, Cynthia works for a new literary magazine called Duration. Here, she meets the mysterious Anthea Carey, the knowing and active opposite of Cynthia’s naïve observer. Cynthia is drawn into Anthea’s orbit and, finally, in a thriller-ish denouement, into action. A couple of dozen characters are sketched in, along with several daft pro-German organizations. Taylor’s writing overflows with a fine excess. A group of partygoers is “this tatterdemalion horde.” Another looked, “as if the bottle of wine is a prelude to some Barmecidal feast that will suddenly drop from the rafters onto a dozen gleaming golden plates.”

A yummy, multi-course meal.