This quirky, biting satire begins with the Royal Family having been exiled to council housing in what is called an Exclusion Zone - a place where the slappers, the morbidly obese, the criminal and other undesirables are sent. The Queen cares for her ailing husband and despairs of her dysfunctional brood. The caricatures are vividly drawn here, and only Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles' long-suffering wife, Camilla, come off very well.
I found something hilarious on almost every page - Sue Townsend has a wicked wit and, though I am a recent transplant to these shores and thus have probably missed some cultural references, I was nonetheless entranced by the storyline, and the foibles Miss Townsend gave her characters. Charles dithers, Camilla consoles, Anne swears a lot, Andrew's gotten chubby and chases girls with wild abandon, William is earnest and Harry's a thug. Throw some unexpected characters into the mix (along with some great cameos from the likes of Stephen Fry and Jeremy Paxman) and you've got a page-turner. Not "great literature," but I couldn't care less - life is too short to read books that enrich without entertaining. There were some scenes that were movingly written, and one that had me crying uncontrollably - that Townsend can inspire such a range of emotion is very telling and a compliment to her literary skills.
Another, interesting, surprising aspect was the integral participation of the community's pet dogs, and the stunning plot twist that they pull off - dumb animals, indeed!
I only gave the book four stars instead of five because of some rather glaring editorial errors that leapt off the page at me and took me out of the story. A good proofreader/editor would have solved that problem and made this a five-star novel.