Having so enjoyed The Uncommon Reader a few years ago, I grabbed this other fictional book about the Queen to try. It’s 10 years since Diana’s death and the Queen finds herself a little melancholy at times. One evening after wandering aimlessly out to the stables to see the horses in the rain, stable hand Rebecca loans the queen her hoodie jumper to keep her warm and dry. Unrecognised by some workmen, they tell her to go out the other way, which she amiably does, finding herself outside Buckingham Palace. On a whim she ends up at the shop that supplies the cheese for Her Majesty and then embarks on a public train headed to Leith, Scotland to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was the home of many happy memories. Rebecca, accompanied by the young salesman at the cheese shop, Rajiv, take after her and keep an eye from a distance.
None of her train companions identify her correctly, although some do wonder if perhaps she is Helen Mirren from The Queen movie. At the same time, not surprisingly, some key folk at the palace are trying to figure out where she is without alerting MI5 to the fact that they have lost her. Anne, a lady in waiting and the Queens’ dresser (Shirley) join forces to search; as do Luke, a new equerry and William, an older butler.
It’s quite delightful. It does jump back and forth in time, filling in details of the others character’s lives as well as the Queen’s history, and sometimes takes a bit of figuring out where you are up to. You get an idea (of course fictional) of how the Queen may view her life with its ups and downs. Some of the extra story lines include the tension amongst various levels of palace staff with their snobbiness, intrigues and gay romances. At no point is the Queen ridiculed, if anything you are shown a hint of a very personal, gentle woman underneath the public persona. It’s a reasonably lightweight story although it does deal with some serious issues along the way. Very enjoyable.