It’s rare that my library world and reviewer world collide, but I’ve been dying to read Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn, since I saw it advertised while perusing one of the many publisher’s catalogs that seem to multiply daily on my desk at work. I was still on the waiting list for the book when my Anglotopia package arrived with a copy of Mrs. Queen tucked nicely inside. I curled up with what I hoped would be a great book, but I was a bit disappointed with the end results.
The premise of the book is that the Queen is feeling a bit put out to pasture, much like her decommissioned yacht, the Britannia. She is frustrated, depressed and, despite her daily Yoga, feeling every bit of her 80+ years. In an attempt to rejuvenate her mood, The Queen decides to walk out of Buckingham Palace and head towards Leith, Scotland and the one place that still holds happy memories, her beloved Britannia. Disguised only by a hoodie and clandestinely followed by a cast of characters including a her lady in waiting, an Indian shopkeeper/paparazzo, and a senior butler and others, the Queen sets out to rediscover herself.
I largely enjoyed the novel. Kuhn does a great job of painting a vivid picture of the characters. I snickered a few times picturing Prince Edward trying to teach the Queen how to use the Internet and how to do a little online gambling. I outright laughed picturing the Queen going through her Yoga poses, the image of her doing the downward dog with a tiara on kept running through my mind. I also enjoyed many of the scenes where the Queen wishes she had done things differently, such as her revisiting the day when she tried to counsel Charles and Diana during their marriage, and when she thinks about “what would Queen Victoria do,” during other moments in the book.
Overall, however, the actual plot book left me kind of flat. The idea that the Queen just left the Palace with no one noticing and was gone for some time with hardly anyone noticing seemed a little too far-fetched for me and I kept waiting for the alarm to be raised. Maybe I’m too practical or cynical, but the way it was written wasn’t fully believable to me. The staff is given 24 hours to bring her back before it goes public? I just didn’t buy it. The fact that no one even notices that the passenger in their cab or on the train or walking onto Britannia is the Queen?? The woman’s face is EVERYWHERE and a hoodie isn’t exactly the most brilliant of disguises. The book is entertaining, but the plot just fizzles out by the middle of the book. A definite “beach read” but not one that will stick with you for long.