This story begins with the Queen of England struggling with a bout of depression. It actually follows the stories of multiple people – the head butler, a stable hand at the Royal Mews, a local cheese store worker, a Lady in Waiting, the head ladies maid to the Queen, and one of the Queen’s assistants – and how their lives interact, connect, and effect each other. The Queen, in a brief moment when she has the ability to leave the palace without a chaperon, takes a chance and heads out. What follows is an interesting account of the different people she meets and how she reconnects with the public. It also follows her entourage at the palace and how they deal with her disappearance.
I had a couple problems with this book. One issue was the age group of the people who were the characters of the book. They were all older individuals, and myself being younger, I was a little distanced from the characters by the experience, knowledge, and empathy that comes with age. The other issue I had was organization. The first half of the book bounces between the present day story line and the back stories for the different characters. It was difficult to bounce back and forth to multiple time periods, places and people. The back stories did help, but I think they could have been integrated better.
Aside from these, I thought it was quite an interesting and inspired story. I liked the approach the author took, focusing on the deep emotions of the impressive monarch and her daily struggles that everyone can relate to in some way. It made her appear very human and very real, not just a figurehead. The desire to just be free for a few short minutes and be able to decide what you would like to do is a right we take for granted and it was highlighted beautifully in the book. It gives you a new appreciation for what the people of the monarchy deal with on a daily basis.
Furthermore, it gives you an amazing view of the importance of the monarchy in Britain. In the US, we have an importance placed on the President, but it is nothing like the love and respect the book portrays of the British people for the monarchy. You are also able to meet and learn about the people who work for the crown, what they do, what is expected of them, and what helps them live and appreciate the crazy schedule and lack of a social life.
I would recommend this book to anyone over forty or anyone interested in a cultural read. I was the latter. I liked the book, am glad I read it, but I will probably not pick it up again. However, it did spark interest in me to look more into the British monarchy and find similar books maybe set in different countries. It would be an excellent book club read as well.