I have a collection of books about Wallis. This book is absolutely the worse book that I have read about this famous woman. The story line is foolish and the words are so made up. I doubt she would have called The Duke Lightening Brain in public. She knew he was childish and slow and self centered. She also knew she had to live by the Golden Rule...."them that has the gold rules."
I have not read the American edition of this witty novel, but i have read the Canadian and British editions. Obviously, I thought it good enough to merit a second reading. It was even better the second time around. The humor and characterizations are so subtle that you can't let a single word get by you. Auspitz does a masterful job of capturing the language and assumptions of the time. Her clever use of footnotes for facts the "editor" of the memoir is able to confirm make it even more easy to sustain the willful suspension of disbelief. The story of Wallis and Edward VIII is one of the legends of the Twentieth Century. Auspitz has given us a retelling that honors the history while creating a motive for Wallis beyond that of a gold digger. I recommend this book to anyone who likes speculative history, or is fascinated by the British class system and the Royal Family.
This short novel is a brilliant, whimsical *jeu d'esprit*. A supposed memoir by the Duchess of Windsor, formerly Mrs Simpson, found after her death, it is funny, ironic, allusive and sophisticated (I'm sure there are sly little digs I will have missed, though I laughed heartily at those I did spot) and, novelistically at least, by no means implausible. Even Lightning Brain - Wallis has a number of insulting private nicknames for her spouse, the ex-king - who in real life must have been pretty two-dimensional, comes across in Kate Auspitz's characterization as three-dimensionally stupid. In fact, it is only his imbecility that does anything to excuse his unpleasantness.
On the other hand Wallis ('HRH', according to herself), albeit in strict justice deserving of something not far off contempt, did manage to extort a certain perverse admiration from me, perhaps because, though appallingly trivial, she is so on a truly heroic scale, and also because the author made one feel that being married to Boysy (another nickname for the Duke) was punishment enough. And I liked the way Boysy's ignorant, feeble-minded racist and similar prejudices (Abraham Lincoln was really 'Lin-Cohen', see?) actually prod her into overcoming them in herself, when she would normally entertain them quite happily. (At the beginning she thinks 'uxorious' means 'usurious', and that its being applied to her second husband Ernest Simpson maliciously insinuates that he is Jewish.) But really, what a pair of holes in the air they seem to have been, both in Kate Auspitz's account and in real life. This is not to say that the author cannot create genuinely 'rounded' characters. Boysy's aide-de-camp in the Bahamas, the fictional Black Watch officer 'Gordie', is an entirely believable portrait of a gentlemanly, highly-educated, patriotic, intelligent young man of the period (everything, in fact, his master the Governor-General isn't).
I know nothing much about the Windsors and their milieu, apart from this book and what has become semi-folklore. My grandparents spoke of them as though Wallis was some kind of threatened pollutant of the royal line and the British way of life, as I suppose in her way she was. (I am British myself.) But the novel's fanciful but deadpan suggestion that she was actually pushed by the British Establishment into marrying Edward VIII, in order to force his abdication and remove a pro-German (and a likely pro-Nazi) from the throne is a new one on me. Harold Nicolson, Duff Cooper and Somerset Maugham (representing the said Establishment) are all very plausibly done, as are Ciano - Wallis's Latin lover, no less - and her suitor Ribbentrop, who even she can see is vulgar and odious. The notion that Wallis, supervised by Gordie, could have been pushed further by Nicolson and Co. into feeding coded disinformation to the besotted Ribbentrop and, through him, to the wartime Nazi high command via her dressmaking orders to Coco Chanel is wonderfully ingenious, and, like so much else in the book, perhaps not wholly fantastic. One wonders whether what Kate Auspitz has so wittily imagined might not even have a grain of historical truth in it. It would not be surprising if so, because nothing of this devious kind is ever surprising in politics. Also, *Wallis: My War* (the UK title, also that given on the US edition's cover) is so heavily grounded in documented facts that just how much really is fiction is doubtful. Perhaps all the author needed to do - and though it may sound little, it is an imaginative triumph - is fill in the gaps, in the way a historian would, only without direct evidence.
The book deserves to be a *succès fou*, though it may be too intelligent to be more than a *succès d'estime*, not that one would sniff at that. (Caviare to the general is still caviare.) But I would trust the publishers, Quartet, on this; they must know that they have a potential winner on their hands. It gave me a great deal of pleasure, not least for the unusual angle it takes (through Wallis's eyes) on the war, which is why the UK title (*my* war, for heaven's sake!) is so good: all these momentous and terrible events being seen only in the light of the inconveniences they cause, and the opportunities for dalliance they present, to desperately shallow socialites. It is no mean feat to write about these people as they clearly were and yet sustain a narrative interest that they could never in real life have deserved or attracted.
*Wallis: My War* has no pretensions to be other than what it is, namely slick, highly intelligent, tautly organized entertainment. You need your wits about you when reading it. But, despite its lightness, it also gives one serious food for thought. As for the real-life Wallis, I agree with the UK historian David Starkey that she should have a blue plaque on her London house. It's not a medal. She was certainly important enough historically, and I'll bet Lenin has one.