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That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor Hardcover – 18 Aug 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (18 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297858963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297858966
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A historical biography that doesn't get dull or confusing, this new look at the life of Wallis Simpson is a fascinating insight into the not-too-distant history of the Royals (WOMAN MAGAZINE)

Book Description

The first serious yet sympathetic biography by a woman of the Duchess of Windsor, the former Mrs Simpson.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 114 people found the following review helpful By pilatesforlife on 21 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this account of the life of Wallis Simpson. As other reviewers have commented, it is an immensely readable book and is certainly not a weighty, academic tome. The book appears to present a more balanced view of the Duchess of Windsor than has been evident previously, though I would not describe it as revisionist. While going some way to explaining her ambition through what are perceived as childhood privations, I don't think Ms Sebba has done a whitewash job. For the most part, the book does not shy away from portraying Wallis Simpson as a shallow and self-absorbed woman, obsessed with material wealth and status. In one of her letters to her former husband, Ernest, she implies that she wished she could have had the life the Prince of Wales gave her with him. This is clearly not an endearing woman. The price she paid for her ambition and love of the `good life' was a friendless, aimless existence propping up a seemingly weak and ineffectual husband. I felt little sympathy for either of the Windsor's after reading this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tyke VINE VOICE on 1 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this on the strength of a good documentary recently shown which was based on Sebba's book, the premise of which was that Wallis' letters proved she was trapped into a marriage which she didn't want and to a man whom she didn't love. Unfortunately this is an idea barely touched on in the book.

For about the first half , which details her youth and the start of her liaison with Edward, one almost starts to like Wallis, but later this turns to dislike and the real reason for Wallis leaving her husband and taking up with the gilded goon is not explained. Their married years are hardly mentioned and within just a few pages Edward has popped his clogs and Wallis is in care. There's some interesting detail on how the government and the Windsors tried to deal with the Simpson situation and those parts are probably the best the work has to offer.

Moreover it has two fundamental weaknesses - not enough Wallis and too much speculation. Sebba thrusts in at every opportunity her notion that Wallis had a sexual development disorder which accounts, she reckons, for her subject's thin figure, unattractive face and absence of children. Having banged on about this disorder for a good bit early on, she then says `there is no medical proof that this is an accurate assessment of her case'. Nonetheless this total conjecture is thrown out all over the place, along with a couple of unreliable sources which suggest that she never had sex with either of her first two husbands because she didn't have the requisite female parts. At the same time, she speculates that Wallis' first husband gave her a beating because he thought she was at it with some other bloke.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dragonlady on 28 Dec. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I bought this book in both Kindle edition and in hardcover(this version for a friend as a Christmas present). My Kindle version had two glaring factual errors and I'm not sure if they were in the hardcover version and mistakes occurred in the transfer to Kindle version.

Firstly, the Scottish retreat for the Duke & Duchess of York was stated as Brickhall and not Birkhall, not once but twice; and secondly the year of the battle at Gallipoli was given as 1911 - we were'nt even at war then! And Ms Sebba states that Royals have been buried at Frogmore since '1928' - I am sure Prince Albert and Queen Victoria will be spinning like tops in their respective plots at Frogmore and wondering how they came to end up there before 1928!

The speculation regarding Mrs Simpson's gender assignment or not and 'Peter Pan's' hinted at small genitalia, are purely that -speculation. He was not a tall man and it could just as easily been his lack of height that led to his nickname of 'the Little Man.' There was a great deal of detail regarding their individual lives up until their marriage in 1937, and then their tenure as Governor of the Bahamas, but then within a couple of chapters both the Duke and Duchess are dead and the only detail then seems to be about the famous and fabulous jewel collection auction. Was their married life really so dull after the war? We don't know who their friends were,or hear much about where they visited. And the story could have been brought up to date with the modern parallels of the acceptance of the Duchess of Cornwall as the wife of the current Prince of Wales and how had Wallis been born in a different era, how different things might have been for her and for the late Duke. If you are going to speculate on the poor man's sexuality and that of his Duchess, at least give some space to. Too much speculation, not enough fact and/or comparison with modern times. I shall try Hugo Vickers biography of the Windsors instead!
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125 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Perriam on 10 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
When I first embarked on this inspired and impressive book, I knew little about Wallis Simpson beyond the fact she was, from all accounts, an unpleasant and almost universally hated woman. 283 revelatory pages later, I was made aware, through Anne Sebba's biographical skills and psychological perception, of all the early influences, including sexual and physiological abnormalities, that went to shape her character, and also of her complicated life-history, with its frequent changes of locale, friends, lovers and position. Sebba steers us through all the twists and turns with admirable expertise, bringing each place and person vividly to life, and never forgetting the wider national and international situation, which played so important a part in Wallis's life, if only by default.

Her depiction of the Prince of Wales, Wallis's lover and, later, husband is equally assured. Sebba goes beyond the outwardly insecure and self-willed man to reveal the reasons for his basic weakness and vulnerability, including childhood neglect and bullying by his father, King George V. And, as his love for Wallis grows into an all-consuming obsession, and his urgent need to marry her becomes more crucial than anything else, including kingship itself, Sebba draws us into the web of intrigue, gossip, scandal and political crisis that accompanied the legal and personal manoeuvering on each side. This was no mere personal drama. Not only did the fate of the nation hang in the balance, but the looming shadow of World War II made the heir to the throne's ultimate decision a matter of still greater import. One of the most fascinating of Sebba's conclusions is that his marriage to Wallis actually did the world a favour by removing from the throne a highly unstable man, and one with strong German sympathies.
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