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by Laurie Graham

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-06-087271-3
Publisher: HarperCollins

A satirical recounting of the romance between Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales, as narrated by a fictional witness to the affair.

Because Maybell Brumby is not quite a sympathetic cross between Lady Bricknell and Auntie Mame—in fact, her one redeeming trait is her genuine affection for her niece and nephew—she is the perfect foil for the conniving Mrs. Simpson. A silly and frivolous widow of means who consistently misinterprets the words and actions of those around her, Maybell arrives in London in 1932 to visit her sisters, attracted in part by news that her childhood playmate “Wally” has shown up with a new husband. Maybell lends money, jewelry and furs as the money-strapped but ambitious Wally Simpson makes her way into society despite a dubious past. Maybell’s diary of the next decade follows Wally’s manipulations as she rises from nobody to hanger-on to prince’s mistress to Duchess of Windsor. The purposely inane diary goes on too long with who wore what where, but it is studded with moments of genuinely funny idiocy: Maybell calls Harrods “Harrold’s” throughout; mistakes Cole Porter for a coal porter; gets comically seasick on the Guinness yacht. More seriously, she does not realize that her younger sister is deaf, not retarded. And Hitler seems quite the fellow to Maybell until actual war breaks out. No judge of character, Maybell abets Wally as she pursues the prince, who everybody but Maybell recognizes is a simpleton unsuited to the throne. While Maybell is foolish but endearing, Wally is conniving, vicious, money-grubbing and power-hungry—also a slut and gambler. According to Graham (Future Homemakers of America, 2002), Wally is out-maneuvered by the Royals when her lover is forced off the throne and out of a large portion of his inheritance. In the end, Wally uses up even Maybell’s patience.

Best read in spurts, since the overabundance of entries diffuses the addictively catty fun.