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on 5 February 2007
Fourteen years after "The Queen and I" was published, there is finally news from the former Royal Family, who were resettled by Republican prime minister Jack Barker to a council estate after the British electorate voted for a republic.

The royals are now electronically tagged and banned from leaving their Exclusion Zone, which is run by a private entrepreneur. In a republic where six million people already live in Exclusion Zones, Jack Barker is still the prime minister, but getting tired of office. In order to deliberately loose the forthcoming elections, he is introducing ever-weirder measures, including legislation against stepladders and dogs. The leader of the New Conservatives, Boy English, believes that the restoration of the monarchy is a vote winner.

It is against this backdrop that the Queen and her family (now including Princes Andrew and Edward as well as Camilla, wife of Prince Charles) continue their struggle for their survival - and their dogs' - survival. The appearance of Camilla's forgotten 'bastard son' Graham threatens William's position as the heir to the throne.

"Queen Camilla" is as funny as the "The Queen and I". You don't have to read the two books in the correct order, but it helps to see how the characters have evolved.

The book is an absolute treat, and Sue Townsend's masterful description of the Queen and her family leaves a profound impact on one's impression of the royals. I for one got to know the Queen a bit better, having read those books.
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on 7 January 2012
Neither this book nor The Queen and I is in the same league as Adrian Mole. But then not many books are. I read this in an afternoon - it's not demanding and it's great fun to read. Sue Townsend's genius is her creation of flawed characters who are both comic and "real". She writes about stereotypical characters and subverts the stereotypes with great subtlety and humour.

Sue Townsend has managed to create a comic dystopia - quite an achievement in itself - which is both enjoyably silly and also slightly frightening. She sees through the pomposity of politics and journalism and the righteous rhetoric of many of those who restrict our freedoms in order to keep us "safe", and she does this with the beautifully light touch which is such a hallmark of her writing.

Unfortunately, as at least one other reviewer has pointed out, there are some howlers in Queen Camilla ("slathering" instead of "slavering", to give one example) that ought to have been picked up by the editor. This didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Sue Townsend's other books, the Queen and/or the Royal Family (the characterisation of Prince Harry is excellent), George Orwell, or just top-notch comic writing.
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on 11 August 2017
Not much of a laugh - expected it to be very funny, I sort of laughed a couple of times. Disappointed really.
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on 12 March 2017
Send up of the Royal Family that I didn't find that amusing
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on 16 August 2017
Laugh out loud funny!
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This is a continuation of Sue Townsend’s previous book about the Royal Family, “The Queen and I”. Now I haven’t personally any knowledge of Camilla’s personality since I don’t live in Britain and do not continually see her on TV; but since I note and admire the author’s amazing grasp of the personalities of the other Royals, I trust that her depiction of Camilla is equally accurate.

Britain has turned into a totalitarian 1984-like society with Jack Barker as Prime Minister. Council estates have been converted into Exclusion Zones “where the criminal, the antisocial, the inadequate, the feckless, the agitators, the disgraced professionals, the stupid, the drug-addicted and the morbidly obese” live. The Royal Family, those who have not fled abroad, are living in the Flowers Exclusion Zone (I don’t know which category of the above-stated unfortunates they fall into.)

Prince Charles regularly wins the Best Kept Garden Award, whereas his neighbours’ garden is “an eyesore of old mattresses --- and festering rubbish bags”.

The residents of the Exclusion Zone are required to wear an ankle tag and carry an identity card at all times. Their movements are monitored by the security police on CCTV screens. Difficulties occur for the Queen when she forgets to take her identity card with her, though, of course, everyone knows who she is.

“When Camilla’s tag had been fitted --- she had said, with her usual cheerful pragmatism ‘I think it flatters my ankle beautifully.’ By contrast, Princess Anne had wrestled two security police to the floor before a third officer had finally managed to attach her tag.”

Jack Barker laughed when his government was accused of being totalitarian. He wasn’t a Stalin or a Mao; it wasn’t his fault there were no viable opposition parties.

Now I haven’t read “1984” recently, but the society Sue Townsend here depicts seems to be just as Orwell predicted. With a mere click on a switch Inspector Lancer has access to full, detailed information about a specific citizen.

For example:
“Bronchitis every winter, otherwise healthy. Menstrual cycle: first week of every month, complains of severe pain. History: Unsettled at nursery school, constantly cries for mother, At four years --- vocabulary v. poor, when shown a picture of a cow could not name it.”

The book is filled with dogs and these communicate avidly with each other and their owners; the author provides us with an interpretation of their various utterances.

“(Camilla to Charles)
‘Darling, do you think a dog knows it’s a dog?’ asked Camilla.
‘It depends what you mean by know’, said Charles.
Freddie (one of Camilla’s dogs) snapped, ‘Of course I know I’m a bloody dog. I eat from a bowl on the floor. I shit in the street ---.’”

It looks now (with the way things are going in 2017) as though Sue Townsend also had prophetic gifts. Australia is now to be the first country in the world to introduce compulsory tagging of all persons so authorities will be able continually to keep checks on the activities of each individual.

Jack Barker makes it illegal to have more than one dog per household, so the rest must be disposed of. The Royals all have several dogs so this affects them greatly. And the vociferous dogs themselves also have something to say about the matter.

The leader of the Conservative party Boy English, wants to restore the monarchy and thus set Queen Elizabeth back on the throne: she, however, has plans to abdicate. It turns out that Charles and Camilla have an illegitimate son, Graham, a rather unsympathetic person, born years ago; he is now second in line to the throne.

The book is impeccably well-written and divinely funny. We learn about all the quirks of the Royal Family; the Queen is in the forefront, as in the previous book. The book is exquisitely readable and I can highly recommend it.
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I'm giving this tale five stars because I don't think anyone could have written it any better, but every time I read one of Sue Townsend's books I find myself saddened by the society she is reflecting. So while there are many comic and satirically amusing moments, I also find it tragic.

For instance, the Royal Family has been locked in a low-end-of-society Exclusion zone run as a private enterprise, for thirteen years. And during that time Prince Philip has had a stroke and now lies in a care home almost forgotten. The Queen goes to visit daily but the nurses are absent, not paid well enough to risk their backs lifting him to change the sheets, or too rushed and understaffed. So when the Queen and her family are confined to house arrest, Philip ends up with no care apart from a man in a wheelchair who can't get near enough to the bed to give him food. This isn't funny, it's a look at what is happening in some care home somewhere today.

You don't need to have read the previous book in which the royalty was dethroned, but it does come as something of a shock if you haven't, to see that William is cheerfully working on scaffolding and Harry is hanging out with hoodies and Anne has married someone with no breeding but a chin, while Charles and Camilla keep each other happy and grow turnips and talk to the dogs. A health and safety officer called Graham claims to be the product of a young love affair between Charles and Camilla, and the rules on succession having changed, he would now stand ahead of William in line to inherit, if there was a crown to inherit that is.

There is a Big Brother style surveillance situation and an all-pervasive computer called Vulcan which knows what you bought last and what music you like, but occasionally puts two million pounds in someone's bank account by mistake or sends death certs to all the pensioners. The Prime Minister decides to ban stepladders and dogs, which gets all the dogs, which we see talking to one another, very worried indeed.

As I say there is a lot that's funny, and I'm delighted that Townsend is able to write in this fashion without being jailed as in some other countries, but there is also a lot in this book that is very sad indeed.
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on 11 August 2008
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.
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on 6 February 2008
The book carries on from The Queen and I and tells the next chapter of the Royal Family and their lives as ex-monarchs. England is under the rule of the Cromwell Party, and is the nanny state from hell! All 'undesirables'- teen mums, criminals, morbidly obese and the Queen and family live in an exclusion zone, complete with ankle tags and identity cards. What struck me most of all about the story was the 'accuracy'(obviously only time will tell!) of Sue Townsend's predictions which must have been based on all the clap-trap which political parties spout now, from the proposed id cards (which are used to suppress the residents throughout the book)to the not-too-far-fetched stepladder bill! The Big Brother world is very much alive and kicking, co-ordinated by a major computer system called Vulcan, which used in conjunction with the id cards and tags, can give every scrap of info about a person, from their favourite food to the names of their pets. The author consciously makes mention of George Orwell's novels, I believe to deliberately draw the feeling of wretchedness at the idea of the world becoming like this from the reader's very soul!I probably enjoyed this book more for the exploration of this hellish world, than for the story itself, which I felt took second place to the social commentary in this book. My only complaint was that Prince Phillip played no active part in the story as he is in a living-dead state in a horrible nursing home, which was a shame as I vaguely remember him being quite a good laugh in The Queen and I (but don't quote me on that!)but I loved the way the other royals were characterised, especially Princess Michael of Kent. Overall I really enjoyed the book-it's easy to read, amusing and despite the scary ideas, light-hearted.
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on 10 September 2007
« Queen Camilla » by Sue Townsend 2006 Penguin Books, UK

Sue Townsend is a very well-established comic novelist, and the light-hearted humour throughout « Queen Camilla » provides a welcome relief from the heavy- handed news reports that can make us heavy-hearted about the Royal Family on a daily basis. I read this book in the week between Prince Harry's well-delivered tribute at the Guard's Chapel on the Friday and his shambolic hung-over performance at Heathrow Airport the following Thursday. Townsend seems to have Harry's number exactly, and though he rarely appears in the novel at all, he was at one point suspected by Charles of having lobbed a brick tied round with a handwritten note saying « Yourl never be queen ». Near the end of the book Harry gets a 15-year-old neighbour on the council estate pregnant and agrees to marry her. Each member of the Royal Family receives piercing and perceptive treatment from Townsend, though she seems kindest about William - the only one in the family to take a real job and come home with callousses on his hands - and the Queen, whom everyone finds kind and caring, if a bit common in her tastes and interests, and who abdicates near the end.

In « Queen Camilla », the monarchy has been abolished and the Royal Family has been sent to live in an exclusion zone, along with « the criminal, the antisocial, the inadequate, the feckless, the agitators, the disgraced professionals, the stupid, the drug-addicted and the morbidly obese » - about 40% of the population. Tagged and watched on closed-circuit television, privacy is a thing of the past. Townsend touches all the bases, portraying government leaders and their public-private enterprise partners with the same astute and amusing good taste she brings to the Family. And let us not forget her portrayal of Vulcan, the hugely expensive national computer that knows all about our various aliments, our shopping history, our reading matter and everything else, trusted implicitly by the people but known by the police to be almost entirely unreliable. The `plot' such as it is, centres on the Prime Minister's attempt to lose the election by banning dogs, and therefore dogs - and their ability to talk to one another - play an important part in this story, as does Camilla's apparent inability to grasp the significance of her situation.

« Queen Camilla » is a fast and amusing read, which prompted a few gentle chuckles and touched a soft spot for our much beleagured Royal Family and our long-suffering electorate. And what the book speaks to, perhaps more than anything else, is the tremendous luxury of our freedoms, that such a book can be written and enjoyed, and no one is threatened, imprisoned, stoned or beheaded. Even in its mocking of our traditions, « Queen Camilla » is a celebration of all that we hold dear .
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