Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

Posted by Brette in Books

I usually only review books I loved, or books that are just so wildly unique and different that I can’t help myself. Today I need to write about Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn, but I can’t say that I loved it.

Here’s the scoop. Queen Elizabeth (yes, her) feels a bit down – Diana’s death, royal divorces, the fire at Windsor Castle, etc. all have made her feel out of whack. So suddenly she takes off on her own, traveling by public (gasp) train to Scotland to see the royal yacht Britannia again (she’s become a tourist attraction, no longer serviceable). This is the synopsis that sucked me in. I’m sort of fascinated by the royals, adore Scotland, and have actually visited the royal yacht Britannia. This was right up my alley.

Turns out the book is also about a cast of characters the Queen meets along the way, as well as a couple who work for her. While their stories are interesting (a young woman who has been almost traumatized by men, a lady-in-waiting who is aging, a dresser for the Queen who is also aging and has little financial resources, two members of the staff who are gay, and a man of Indian descent who works in a cheese shop), they just didn’t have the same pull for me as that of the Queen. I wanted to know what she was thinking, feeling, experiencing, and doing more than I really wanted to know about the other characters. In hindsight, I can see the story was well-crafted and the other characters were interesting in their own right, but I was hungry for more about the Queen, when really this was almost a mix of short stories about the other folks.

And the royal yacht Britannia played too small a part! The Queen was terribly fond of the yacht, and even cried when it was retired. I just felt the book ought to have spent more than a couple of pages on it! I bought a teacup and a bag with the embroidery pattern that was on the Queen’s headboard on that yacht. I can envision every room I saw. I wanted a fully fleshed out account of it. I wonder if the author even actually visited the ship, to be honest!

All of that being said, this is a fun romp in royal what-if land. Who wouldn’t love to be inside the Queen’s head for a bit, to know what it’s really like?

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