Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Book 29 of 2013: The Queen and I by Sue Townsend

Sue Townsend, of Adrian Mole fame, also wrote The Queen and I, a sort of alternate reality story where a man becomes Prime Minister through the use of subliminal messaging in television programmes and then sets about removing the Royal Family. The whole family is rehoused on a run-down council estate and are forced to live like the common people. They all respond to this in very different ways.

 After the Jubilee last year I'd been wanting to dig thus one out again. I first read it when I wad eleven and at the time it was kind of weird reading about these real people, mainly because it wasn't long after Princess Diana had died. On this reading not only has the Queen Mum passed away too but also William had gotten married and was preparing to start a family of his own. I think this distance helped to make it feel slightly less weird this time around.

Considering it was written in 1992 I was expecting it to feel really dated,  but it isn't really. There are a few references to money, putting fifty pence in the meter, but that was really it. When I first read it we had a meter which allowed you £2 emergency credit so it wasn't a huge adjustment for me even then.

I guess the point it's making in the book is that lots of people live in poverty and in less than desirable situations. Which is just as much the case now as it was twenty years ago when the book was published.

As I mentioned above, I was kind of expecting to feel weird reading about real people. I've stumbled across Real People Fanfic before and that's felt a bit strange; although this was a reread so I knew what to expect, I was still expecting the weirdness factor to kick in.

I think the reason it didn't was because the characters in this story were exactly that, characters. They might be heavily based on real people, but the story was meant to be funny and kind of tongue in cheek. They were more like caricatures of the Royal Family so that made it okay somehow.

I really loved the Queen in the book. She's obviously the main character but she's also the one who holds everyone else together. Philip ends up refusing to get out of bed, Charles ends up being sent to prison, even her corgi joins a gang of neighbourhood dogs which terrorise the area. Meanwhile the Queen just keeps on making do, helping her neighbour get her kids back, delivering a baby and trying to keep the rest of the family in check. She's hilarious and kind of a super woman.

It's not a terribly long read. I read it all in a day, staying up a little later than I should have to get it finished. I could be quite easily read it all in one sitting though. Even though I knew there was going to be a twist at the end I couldn't help but read on to see exactly what was going to happen.

It's also very funny. I kept on finding myself reading bits out loud to Mr Click. There's lots of little one-liners which are really hilarious. I've recently found out there's a sequel called Queen Camilla which I think I'm going to have to keep an eye out for as well.

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Let me know what you think. :-)