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Abdication Paperback – 6 Jun 2013

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Abdication + The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War + The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (6 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1408830930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408830932
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.3 x 14.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Abdication beautifully evokes the troubled thirties, with its high-stakes politics, easy money and social tensions. Juliet Nicolson is an outstanding historian who brings the full panoply of her talent and research to the task of recreating the abdication crisis and its effect on Britain. This is a wonderful novel (Amanda Foreman)

Superb ... a delightful story of a friendship forged by the drama of the Abdication and the approaching war; ideal for the intelligent deckchair (Kate Saunders, The Times)

Juliet Nicolson's busy novel brings a turbulent period to vivid life ... the cast of kings and courtiers, American socialites and upper-class fascists grips throughout (Max Davidson, Mail on Sunday)

Exhilaratingly rich in period details ... Nicolson brings Edward and Wallis's relationship to vivid life, artfully conveying Edward's infatuation and Wallis's brittle social-butterfly charm (Leyla Sanai, Independent)

With her keen eye for historical detail and intimate knowledge of England's social mores, Juliet Nicolson weaves a juicy and evocative tale of lives caught in the midst of one of Britain's great modern dramas, the abdication of King Edward VIII (Tina Brown)

A vivid reimagining ... a thoroughly absorbing novel. Juliet Nicolson combines a historian's deep knowledge and eye for telling detail with a keen sense of drama, a dash of romance, and an understanding of the complex motivations of human nature (Sally Bedell Smith)

Anyone interested in the 1930's will revel in this richly detailed slant on the abdication crisis (Daisy Goodwin)

This debut novel brings the skills of a gifted social historian to bear on familiar material, and so makes it strange again (Independent)

Perceptive. Clearly Nicolson has done her research (Evening Standard)

Elegantly poignant ... Nicolson has an eye for prescient anecdotes (Ruth Scurr, The Times on The Perfect Summer: Dancing Into Shadow in 1911)

Sweeps across voices and classes to assemble a mosaic of sunlit impressions (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

An accomplished and engaging piece of social history (Daily Telegraph)

This is a peach of a book. It is full of good things, elegant and often funny. A cleverly crafted story of the hot, frenetic summer of 1911 which works because of the sparkling writing (Jane Ridley, Literary Review)

Book Description

From critically acclaimed historian Juliet Nicolson, a novel of a King and country torn between private desire and public duty on the eve of the Second World War

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
After two works of non-fiction (The Great Silence and The Perfect Summer) Juliet Nicolson has written her first novel 'Abdication'. It is 1936 and, after the death of King George V, his successor, Edward VIII is on the throne. England in the 1930s is a rather unsettled period in time; unemployment figures are high and many of the working class are not working; the nation is still suffering from some of the effects of the First World War, and now it appears that there is the possibility of another conflict ahead. And set against this unsettled backdrop is the matter of the love affair between King Edward and the American divorcee, Mrs Wallis Simpson.

A long way from London and the affairs of the royal family, nineteen-year-old May Thomas arrives at Liverpool Docks after leaving the sugar plantation in Barbados where she grew up. Once in England, May makes her way to relatives in London and manages to obtain an interesting post as secretary and driver to Sir Phillip Blunt, who is Chief Whip in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, and it is through her work for Sir Philip and Lady Jane Blunt that May becomes involved in the lives of those in the upper echelons of British society. While at the Blunt's home, May meets Julian Richardson, an Oxford undergraduate and family friend and, against her better judgement, she begins to fall in love with him. However, Julian has caught the unwanted eye of Evangeline Nettlefield, the middle-aged American god daughter of Lady Jane Blunt, and a rather unfortunate woman who, through her affliction with alopecia, has lost her hair.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stacey Woods on 18 Jun. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I am discombobulated. I hate saying that I don't like a book, it distresses me greatly; particularly when I was so sure it would be right up my street. Abdication by Juliet Nicolson tells the familiar story of the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 over his relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The twist here, however, is that the story is told through the eyes of May Thomas, a chauffeur of British extraction newly arrived from Barbados and Evangeline Nettlefold, an old school friend of Wallis Simpson. So far so good: the events of the story can be told as we know they have occurred but these two can inject a little more variety into the mix.

But, despite this being an era in history that I really enjoy reading and learning about, Abdication just didn't do it for me I'm sorry to say. That's not to say that the book didn't have good points, for instance I really did like May as a heroine. She was young, capable and bore tragedy with great strength, but it seemed that the events of her daily life had little to do with the Abdication, so her part could have been in any novel about the 1930s. Evangeline Nettlefold was a little closer to the action, being a friend of Wallis Simpson, but even she doesn't really add much in the way of insight.

I guess my biggest problem, though, is that while the author can't be faulted for her impeccable research, it seems as though she went to the library, made fifty pages of notes, then set about cramming the whole lot into the book even when they were barely relevant, for example, she includes a great deal of information about advertising posters on the wall of the Lyon's Cornerhouse, when the characters only popped in there for a cuppa.

So, despite it's slightly redeeming qualities, I really can't add a positive review for this book which annoys me very much indeed. Harumph!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 9 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
Set in 1936, this is a novel which can't quite make up its mind about its own identity: the title indicates a fictional concern with the Wallis Simpson/Edward story, but the narrative reads more like a mashed-up social history of 1936.

The scenes containing Wallis herself are done well: they're dramatic, evocative and intriguing. The problem is they're few and far between and the rest of the narrative gets very (very) bogged down in cramming in every social and cultural reference possible as well as jamming in all that Nicolson knows about the time. So there are great information dumps on Noel Coward and first nights at London theatres; a page detailing the kinds of menus and dishes available at society dinner parties (not a specific occasion which we witness in the book, just in general); and advertising campaigns available at Lyons shops.

As well as this, Nicolson shoe-horns in key names and artefacts: someone is reading `a marvellous new book about life on a plantation... called Gone With the Wind'; May goes out for a walk and bumps into Virginia Woolf (cue a mini-lecture on the Bloomsbury Group); goes into a pub with her socialist friend and bumps into a man on a walking tour with Eric Blair (George Orwell); and her cousin conveniently marries into a Jewish family from Bethnal Green so that we can witness a fascist rally led by Walter Mosley. Said socialist friend also goes off, of course, to witness the Berlin olympics and then fight in the Spanish civil war.

I'm sounding like I didn't enjoy this book which isn't true - I did, however, find it frustrating that the story of the title was submerged beneath so much surrounding background detail.
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