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3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
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on 12 April 2017
Enjoyed the book and the audio version came as promised and was pleasant to listen to.
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on 3 January 2014
The exposition of this novel seems to go on for decades. As late as Chapter 7 new characters stroll in, making us riffle back to see if we have met them before. Few are memorable enough for us to be sure of their names at any point. The constructional technique is that of John le Carré: to introduce characters and plot in an apparently inconsequential sequence which gradually resolves, building tension on the way; but Taylor does not have the imagination to create a world we can care about, and the denouement (such as it is) is risible.

The USP of the book is its alternative history angle. It features the King's Speech that never happened, a speech delivered in 1940 by an Edward VIII who had not abdicated - indeed I wondered if the idea of a tribute to/parody of the Colin Firth "King's Speech" was where the book began. But Edward VIII is not a major character in the story, and history in other respects hardly seems to have changed; so what we get is a dull excursion through "Remains of the Day" territory, without the love interest. There is sex, but it's pretty vague and unresolved, as is most of the action.

I suppose Taylor's intention was a recreation of one of those (fairly common) moments when everyone senses some uncertain catastrophe on the way, and hops about trying not to commit themselves to a point of view before it reveals itself. If so, he succeeds: but not in a very interesting way.
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on 27 February 2014
I was misled at first by this book; it did not deliver the drama implied in the blurb on the end piece.
It is a piece of very self indulgent writing in which the author shows off at every opportunity the wonderfully original similes ,metaphors and period characters he can create. These are indeed creative but a novel is meant to be for the readers, not the writer and this author does not at all do the job of creating a compelling narrative.There is a plot but it gets submerged in the scene setting.If you are prepared to slow down and get immersed in the minutiae of the characters interactions and lives It becomes more enjoyable but still giving the impression of an author showing off how well he can write.
The atmosphere of London at the time of the 'phoney war ' is well portrayed but all of the decorative asides soon pall in the face of the slow development of a storyline. This is a collection of character studies , and a comedy of manners set against the social background of '30s society. I would have enjoyed it more if it had been described as such.
He should have given what plot there is to Robert Harris who would have turned it into a satisfyingly atmospheric narrative.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 October 2013
This book opens with the burial of Wallis Simpson in 1936. Readers who relish a "what if...?" story-line will be rubbing their hands in anticipation. One hates to disappoint (this is how they talk in the book) but after this promising prologue, we are immediately flung to the far-off reaches of Ceylon where Cynthia Kirkpatrick sits twiddling her thumbs and waiting for her life to start - preferably in the arms of someone more exciting than Henry Bannister. And it pretty much all goes downhill from there.

More jaw-jaw than war-war, the author digresses at every point until one really does start to lose patience. It reached a stage where I could've cheerfully throttled the lacklustre Cynthia. Nevertheless, there are some good moments and deft touches, and the author is on surer ground with his non-fiction characters. The diary pages of Beverley Nichols are amusingly handled and the portrait of the brooding, petulant King is particularly well drawn. But otherwise, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this novel. Billed as 'a web of intrigue', this one surely lost its thread. 3.5 stars.
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on 29 October 2013
Too much background detail and too little political or other action which title and blurb would have suggested. Overall, very disappointing.
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on 18 September 2013
A real disappointment.
The reviews suggested an interesting alternative history based upon Edward VIII not abdicating in 1936 and the possible implications for the start and progress of the Second World War. In fact that storyline played only a very small part and there is virtually no reference to the main political figures and any consequent changes to the course of the political or historical scene.
Instead ninety per cent of the book is based around a wholly unbelievable female character and her personal fortunes in and around London and the country set in the early days of the war. The prose is turgid and the characters uninteresting.
There is a good book waiting to be written based upon the scenario of Edward VIII remaining on the throne and the inevitable consequences . This book is not it.
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on 2 January 2014
Ingenious, but rather shapeless. The characters are not wholly believable, and the 'secret service' element desperately unclear. I have a feeling that it will soon grace the shelves of Oxfam.
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It's just before the outbreak of WWII and King Edward VIII sits on the British throne, having gone through with his coronation after the l936 death of Wallis Simpson. His country is divided on whether to resist the aggression of Hitler's Germany, with a sizable number of wealthy and anti-semitic Brits trying their hardest to keep their country from any conflict. When war is finally declared after the Nazi invasion of Poland, no serious military action takes place for several months and the battle for England's soul heats up. So we have a promising alternative fictional history loaded with promising characters, many of them actual period figures of the time populating an important, but often well-reported moment in time.

Unfortunately "The Windsor Faction" is one of those peculiar novels where a really good author, using credible period language in narrative and dialogue still doesn't get to where he wants to go because his characters are too often vacuous, unpleasant, self-satisfied and disconnected from reality. Starting with the character of the King (who clearly did everyone on the Allied side by actually abdicating and leaving the scene in 1937), these people are truly and unrelentingly stupid and selfish. As chronicled in this book, their antiwar sentiments are completely unconvincing (not a one points to the devastation to Britain caused by WWI) and their anti-semitism voiced like uneducated children. Yet these characters are mostly the educated elite of the time. Poor England to have take on a monstrous war with this lot trying to sabotage the effort well into the Fall of France in 1940. The heating up of the war of words mentioned never does get more than tepid and excitement rarely raises its desirable head. Rumors and letters to The Times are the weapons of choice in this battle.

What kept the novel from being a total loss for me was author D.J. Taylor's skill with language. He often successfully channels E.M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh and there are some entertaining riffs--often narrative that keep the reader (me at least) from throwing in the towel.
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on 15 October 2014
It is the first few months of the Second World War, and the British are in that curiously suspended situation, wondering when, if ever, the fighting will start. But this is a different history – for in this story Wallis Simpson died on the operating table in 1936 and King Edward VIII mooches unproductively around Windsor Castle, grieving for his mistress. The King’s opposition to the War is well known and inchoate groups of right-wingers, anti-Semites, pacifists, appeasers and general eccentrics emerges to keep Britain from getting embroiled in a disastrous military conflict with Germany, hoping that the King will provide a focus for their aims. The writer Beverley Nichols is invited to help the King with his Christmas Day broadcast and when Edward VIII delivers pacifist opinions at odds with government policy, matters come to a head.
Cynthia Kirkpatrick who works on the staff of a new literary review has family connections with members of the “Faction”, and begins a love affair with Tyler Kent, a US diplomat who supports an isolationist policy. Cynthia has no particular support for the appeasers, and is a likeable and sympathetic character who, towards the end of the story, gets dragged into playing a central role in some serious events. This is an absorbing and well-written novel. Very often it is amusing in an almost Wodehousian manner with DJ Taylor’s closely-observed descriptions of the more ludicrous behaviour of some of the characters a delight.
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on 22 June 2015
I felt very ambivalent about this novel. At first I found it rather tedious, but later on in the book it began to grab my imagination more. Like other reviewers I felt the opening chapter about the death of Wallis Simpson was going to lead down very different paths, and the part of Edward v111 plays in the book is fairly minor. It certainly does not paint a different picture than you can imagine Edward would have been liked if this scenario had been acted out. The book was very well written, though characters did appear at random, and then really played no further significant part, or am I missing something. I thought the main character, if you can call her that, of Cynthia was quite believable, a girl who somehow did not know what she wanted, but was sure that it was not something she had been bought up to believe.
Overall quite an enjoyable experience.
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