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==Synopsis of the book:==
The Queen awakes the morning after the General Election to discover the Republican Party under Jack Barker have swept to power. One of their first actions is to take all the power and authority away from the Royal family. Now they are without titles just another family and without wealth. Not only that they move them out of their lovely homes with all their priceless possessions into a Council housing estate in the Midlands.
They are moved into what the locals affectionately call 'Hell Close' in various two bedroom semi's. These are not in good condition but the Queen has decided to try and make the best of it. She must now try and survive on her old age pension and do her best to integrate with the local people. But can she and her family survive such an ordeal? When they are not even used to dressing themselves in the morning.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I found this quite an entertaining piece of fiction. It was in parts very amusing and I enjoyed the relaxed style of the story. Although at the same time as being a light hearted read it was at times hard to find what was happening to the Royal family credible. But I would imagine many would enjoy this book to see how they dealt with becoming normal members of society.
Sue Townsend is an author who will be familiar to most people. Much of her success has been based around her Adrian Mole series of stories that were transferred to television in the 1980's. I have always been a fan of this series but before this book had not tried anything else from her. As this English writer has written 5 other novels and a couple of plays, I thought it was time I read something different from her to see how it compared.
I found this book at a local car boot sale recently. I was very unsure about purchasing it basically because I really love the Adrian Mole stories and I really felt even if this was good it would not compare in my opinion to them. But after dithering for about 15 minutes (really annoying the seller!), I decided I would risk it. And as it only cost 25p it was not that big a risk financially anyway!!
When I looked at the cover I was hardly impressed. Basically because when someone tells me something is really funny I try and prove them wrong and the comments on the front told me how amusing this was. However, my faith was partly recovered when I read the summary of the story on the back cover. I found the concepts interesting and I liked the idea of this Republican Party taking control and the Royal family having to slum it with their former subjects.
I found the story easy to get into because I immediately felt sympathy for the former Royal family. Although I did find initially the story seemed to move around quite a lot between the various family members. I liked the way the author gave them all traits that endeared me to them. Obviously they all took their new lives differently and it was always interesting to see what they would do next. Yes at times it was very far fetched even silly but I still found it quite compelling.
The story moved on in a diary type format, providing the reader with an update on all the main characters within the story. And while I found it entertaining and struggled to find myself laughing. Yes it was clever and some of the scenes that were played out I sniggered or smiled at, but it was sharp wit rather than a laugh a minute story. What impressed me was how the author turned this traumatic experience into a humorous story. Not only that but there was to be sadness in the story and I thought the author handled this with cleverly showing a range of emotions from the characters but benefits it some subtle wit.
I found this a very easy read and although the story is well over 200 pages it simply flew past. There was enough depth to the story to make me interested in what was happening. And in truth the story in my opinion could have been expanded to cover either a longer period or more depth on the various characters within the family. It took me three evenings to read this and while I didn't think it was as good as the Mole stories it still was an enjoyable entertaining and very different read.
One of the biggest drawbacks with this book was it was originally written in 1991. This for me gave the story a very dated feel. I think that is because since then a lot has happened to the Royal Family that the author simply would not have been able to predict. It seemed funny to see William and Harry as Children again. I have to say it would be interesting if the same story was told now.
The lead character in the story for me was the Queen and I found her a tremendous character. Not always the funniest character but she was the one that was adapting to life in the Close while trying to keep all her family in order. I like the way she embraced her new life and really made an effort to get on with all the inhabitants of the new set up. However it was the support characters that amused me more with there unusual antics. At the top of these was Harris the Queen's former favourite Corgi who really embraced his new surroundings and his interaction with the Queen was at times priceless and very funny.
The only other feature that disappointed me was the sudden end to the story. It was almost as if the author had run out of ideas and her creativity was over. Yes a clever idea and in some respects this reminded me of the Spitting Image puppets of the Royal Family of the 1980's as that was how I pictured some of them.
Yet at the same time Townsend raised many important points about the struggle a lot of people have to make ends meet. It certainly reminded me how tough some people's lives are. That added elements of realism to the story and the Queen trying to make sure she had a 50p for the electricity meter although funny the way it was told, I imagine is not in the least funny for those struggling to do this.
I am pleased I tried this entertaining piece of fiction. It was cleverly written and I would recommend it to those who need a light and witty read. And while its true in my opinion it was not as good as the Adrian Mole stories the same humour was still there. Yes it was hard to believe in at times but if like me you find that just enjoy the often dry wit and don't take it too seriously.
==Other information on the book:==
Price: 6.29 New at Amazon
Year first published: 1991
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo
© CPTDANIELS December 2012.
I first came across the Queen and I as a radio adaptation in the early 90s, although probably younger than its target audience it did amuse me. Several years later when I came across a copy of the book I had to buy it and it is now a much thumbed resident of my bookshelf.
The novel is a comic what if story. It all starts with the 1992 general election when the Queen's nightmare comes true and the People's Republican Party is elected. The first action of the new Prime Minister, Jack Barker, is to head to Buckingham Palace to order the Queen to abdicate. But he doesn't want simply want her to retire to luxury he wants the whole Royal Family to live like normal people. And within a few days all the Royals are relocated to Hell Close on the Flowers Estate - at the more unpleasant end of the stereotypical estate. How on earth will they manage? Why is there only one bed in the master bedroom? And where does one accommodate the servants in a one bedroom bungalow?
This book moves along very quickly courtesy of the short chapters, which make it all the more unput downable as its easy to persuade yourself just one more chapter. All the characters - Royals and estate residents - are very vividly characterised. Sue Townsend even gives the corgis characters and examines their reactions to normal life. She treats the elder characters with sympathy and dignity highlighting how difficult it can be for the elderly in modern society. She does poke more fun at the younger characters - Charles on the run from prison, Anne in a relationship with a carpet fitter - to name just two of the scenarios without giving too much away. Townsend realistically examines how each Royal may react to the situation they are now in and the way she writes it is easy to both visualise and believe. There are some fairly subtle, socialist digs at the state of public transport, the situation of the elderly and the NHS.
One point to be aware of is that this book was published in 1992 so it obviously relates to the Royal Family at that time. The Queen Mum and Princess Margaret are still alive, Charles and Diana still married, the children very young and a Labour government hasn't been seen since the 70s. Having said that it does not make it a book that can't be enjoyed now.
I really enjoy reading this book, whilst checking facts for this review I found myself engrossed in the first few chapters and could easily have kept on reading. At times whilst reading this book I have found myself laughing out loud, and that was not only the first time I read the book. The book is both humorous and poignant in appropriate amounts. Sue Townsend's style of writing is easy to get into and she keeps the story moving along with various twists and turns without resorting to repeatedly having the Royals struggling with everyday situations (although these situations are scattered through the book). I'm confident that this book will be enjoyed by Royalists and Republicans alike. At just 310 pages long this would be ideal for your summer reading list (and is rapidly moving to the top of mine).
If there is one author guaranteed to make me laugh out loud then it has to be Sue Townsend.
She has an uncanny knack of writing books that I enjoy reading so much, that the minute I have finished, I want to start reading it over again!
Adrian Mole was my first introduction to Sue Townsend and her style of writing appealed greatly to me, it was informal, light and reflective or indeed, indicative of 'society' at the time.
Reading the Queen and I was a pleasure from start to finish. it charts the fall and fall of the Royal Family, who are moved to a council estate after a Republican Government takes over. The story is about how the family cope with their new situation (the Queen manages well, Margaret on the other hand fights tooth and nail) and what it does brilliantly is reflect the inner feelings of the Royal family and the notions that we all have about them...Anne gets on with it and falls for a carpet fitter...Diana, dresses for the challenge, Charles turns his garden into an allotment and has 'never looked happier'. The children (all much younger than they are today obviously) quickly adapt to life on the estate and alter their appearence and voices to fit in.... it is very cleverly done.
Sue Townsend is clearly an ardent socialist and there are some great moments in the story, like for example, when the new Prime Minister visits the vaults of jewels and gold underneath Buckingham Palace and the reaction to just what they could all buy.... or when the Queen gets on the bus and joyfully discovers that there is now a flat fare of 15p for all journeys...she, like every other person on low incomes thinks this is a great idea.
The book is light hearted, but also tinged with sadness and I think it reflects upon many inequalities in Britain. I could not help but be touched by the pensioner 'facing up' her empty tins in her cupboard so that her sone would always think she had loads of food.... very cleverly written and added to the story.
Townsend also wants the story to reflect some of her notions for a socialist Britain - new schools, everyone working, fair prices...it is clever and remember, that this was written before the Labour Government!
For those with a keen Townsend eye, when reading this book you will find many similarities to Adrian Mole. Lots of story lines, phrases and features have been borrowed...but as she is such a talented author, I think it is easy to forgive her for this.
Recently, this book was followed up with 'Queen Camilla' and that too adds to this story.
Apparently, the most common dream in Britain is having tea with the Queen, after reading this book not only does that become more likely, but you would also have lots of exciting questions to ask her....expecially about the influence of Crawfie her nurse on her life!
The Queen and I by Sue Townsend is a thoroughly good read. It is a really funny book of fiction by the author of the Adrian Mole diaries.
The basic precept is that a revolutionary government has taken control in Britain and the royal family are kicked out. All their wealth and possessions are not their own but belong to the country and so they have no money and nowhere to go. They end up in the Midlands on a council estate. It is all about how the struggle to fit in. It is absolutely hilarious. I read this a while ago and my strongest memory is that Prince Charles just couldn't cope and so withdrew, talking constantly to his plants.
It is roughly £6 at Amazon so it hasn't come down in price much, despite being years old.
I like to think that if this situation ever arose, the Queen would rise to the challenge as she does in the book. Oh and another great bit is when they have to use public transport.
Seriously. buy it!
In a fictional 1992, the Republican Party sweeps the general election and their first act of power is to dismantle the monarchy and put the whole royal family into Midlands' welfare housing in a place known to the locals as "Hell Close". How the Winsor/Mountbatten/Teck families adjust to this new, impoverished lifestyle is the basis of Sue Townsend's novel "The Queen & I".
Sue Townsend is best known for her Adrian Mole books, which are aimed from what I understand to the youth market. This novel, while not one that younger readers couldn't enjoy, seems to be aimed more at adults. As you can imagine, this is hardly a serious piece of dramatic literature so both young and old may enjoy it, especially since this is written in very easy language for a particularly fast read. Personally, however, I found this book slightly lacking, but not totally so.
On the positive side, the basis of the story is very unique and interesting. Putting not just the queen, but the whole royal family "out of business", so to speak, makes possibilities of humourous situations almost endless. Townsend uses several varying situations in this book, and seems to have the picked ones that would cause the most trouble for the group immediately upon being deposed. For instance, fitting their large and precious carpets into the tiny flats they've been given, or suddenly having to do the simplest of things like taking public transport, making tea or going shopping for the first time. Of course, how each of the royals cope with their lower-class, cramped, physical surroundings, seems to bring about the more amusing personality comparisons and circumstances. And the colourful people that get these unexpected new neighbours are pretty funny, and mostly endearing.
That the main 'characters' are actually real people always makes writing fiction about them difficult, and when they are as well known as the House of Windsor, this is even more difficult. Still, Townsend seems to have succeeded in creating a fairly believable newly-impoverished Elizabeth. Ann and Margaret also act pretty much true to form. Even the Queen Mother is mostly realistic, and while I have my doubts about how she portrayed Diana, Phillip and Charles, I found them just slightly off kilter but not totally unbelievable. Unfortunately, reading this in 2007, and not in 1992 does make many of the other family members' actions a bit on the inaccurate side. Hindsight, of course, is part of the problem here, and certainly if this had been written more recently, Townsend would have needed to change some of her characterizations, and several of the situations.
The question is just how much of a leap of faith do we really need to take with this book? Suspending disbelief to accept that Diana would get involved in DIY redecoration or that Charles' horticultural abilities would blossom in this shadowy environment is basically allowable. The biggest problem I found was Townsend's getting into the head of Elizabeth's pet corgi, Harris. I'm sorry, but I really don't think that this story benefited from this sub-plot of a pampered dog turning into a street mongrel, and I certainly don't want to read what he is thinking about as he has his experiences! I mean, even in fiction we need to be just a bit realistic, don't we? Don't get me wrong, I have been known to enjoy books like "Watership Down" where all the characters are animals whose thoughts we were party to, but it was an animal world, not a human one. Mixing the two worlds together just got on my nerves.
I also felt that Townsend took on a bit too much here, for the length of the work she produced. Because we're talking about such a large group of people, some of the royal family got only cursory attention, while others were barely footnotes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but her concentration on Elizabeth was distracted firstly by the damned dog's story, and secondly by trying to at least mention as many of people as possible. I really think this would have been a far more solid book if we had seen it all through Elizabeth's perspective, instead of changing focus all the time. In order to properly give attention to all those different points of view, it probably needed an additional 150-200 pages, which would have made the book too long for the "light reading" genre market.
Still, one shouldn't take a book like this too seriously. It is a comedy with a unique and interesting, if badly dated, concept that will make you giggle if not guffaw at times. Despite some iffy characterizations, loss of focus and a terribly predictable ending that borders on the cliché, the writing style is easy and quick to read, and suitable for younger audiences as well as adults. I can't give it more than three stars but if you're looking for a fun, fast read, I can recommend you give this a try.
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © July 2007
This book is available via Amazon new for £5.99 or through the marketplace from £2.50. There is a sequel to this book called "Queen Camilla" but I don't think I'll be reading it.
Details on Amazon have the paperback version I read as follows: 288 pages, Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (28 Nov 2002), Language English, ISBN-10: 0141010878, ISBN-13: 978-0141010878
I also found the following sites (among many) about Sue Townsend:
The Penguin Authors page is at http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000049987,00.html
Fantastic Fiction site
I am in love with Sue Townsend books after having read the Adrian Mole diaries so often the cover fell off! So I leapt at the chance when I spotted this book...
Suspend your disbelief and imagine this scene...a Republican government is elected in 1992 and the monarchy is dismantled and shipped out to live in one of the worst council estates in the Midlands.
The beauty of the book is that not a lot happens. There's no complicated twisting plot to follow, the charm lies in the cynical observations of the Royal family, the British class system and the spirit of human nature. The book is laugh aloud funny, strangely moving at times, and above all has you really thinking without you even realising!
And whilst Charles may be on the run from the law in a shell suit, Anne is keeping a horse in a pink stable in the garden while dating a short fat carpet fitter and Phillip is in a downwards spiral towards madness, at no point are the actual people concerned insulted.
It is a wholly believable account of how each of these personalities would cope if the tables were suddenly turned.
The only disadvantage is that the book is becoming old so what would have been easy topical references at the time now require a good memory and is slightly odd that the book portrays Diana and the Queen Mother, who have now both passed away.
However, overall this book is intelligent, witty and best of all laugh out loud side splittingly funny! :)
Published by Mandarin Fiction cover price is £4.99 although mine is a fairly old copy so prices have probably gone up since then!
The last Sue Townsend book I read was the Adrian Mole diary just the same as many other people I presume. However when I spyed "The Queen and I" nestled in a pile in a charity shop I decided to give it a go. I have to say straight off that I didn't find it as good as the Adrian Mole diaries but it did give you plenty of food for thought. Whereas the Adrian Mole diaries were stuck in the 80's, this book is well and truly in the 90's. This is a bit of a disadvantage as some things don't translate to the "00's" as well. The book is set in the future but when in the future we are not told. The Peoples Republican Party has just won the general election thanks to some subliminal advertising. Obviously the first thing a Republican Party does is to get rid of the monarchy. Unlike France where they beheaded their now redundant monarchs, we in Britain are not quite as cruel. Just about - but not quite. The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William, Prince Harry and the Queen Mother (the main characters) are all given houses on a lovely cough, splutter council housing estate called the Flowers estate. The address of their new abode is Hellebore Close. Quite apt that someone removed the middle "e" from the street sign. The story focuses on how the Royal family copes with being pushed into everyday life. It's probably not every day life to a lot of people but to some it is a living hell. They have to deal with no money (DSS payments being late or non-existent), terrible housing full of damp and cockroaches and trying to decide whether to have a warm house or no dinner. Bit of a change I think you'll agree. Each member of the family copes in their own way. Prince Philip becomes depressed and stays in bed refusing to wash or eat. Prince Charles loves every minute of being "normal" and spends all his time in his garden growing vegetables.
The Queen Mother goes back in time and thinks that its 1940 all over again. Other members of the Royal family do appear such as Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and her children, all adding to the chaos. At the centre of everything is the Queen. The Queen is the one that is holding the family together trying to get them all fed and clothed, chasing up the DSS payments and trying to get Prince Philip out of bed. I did enjoy this book. It was easy to read and certainly didn't tax your brain too much. The story line was exciting and opportunities to put the book down were rare! It was a very interesting idea for a story and I think that Sue Townsend pulls it off very well. Where the book fell down was the fact that it seemed quite dated already. Princess Diana passed away years ago and Prince William is about to start university. It feels very odd to be reading about him as a young tearaway aged about 10. I'm certainly not a die hard fan of the Royal family but surely no one could but feel sorry for them, plunged into a situation well out of their depth. Definitely a book to read out of curiosity. I wonder if the Queen has read this?
It is the day after the 1992 general election and the Queen's worst nightmare has come true: a republican government has been elected, and the monarchy has been abolished. Jack Barker, leader of the Republican Party, arranges for the royal family to move out of Buck Pal to a run-down council estate in the Midlands: "I'm not telling you where you're all going. All I can say is that you'll be in the same street, but you'll have strangers as next-door neighbours." "Tony, why they moved poshos in Hell Close?" "Christ, just our bleedin' luck to have poshos nex' door!" After an initial interpretation difficulty, the Royal family's next door neighbours realise who they are ("We never voted for them - we always voted Conservative, always") and are very helpful - fitting carpets, sawing Napoleonic sofas down to size, prviding tea, etc.. The Royals slowly adapt to their new lifestyle. Prince Charles is arrested and sent to prison, escapes and goes on the run, Princess Anne falls in love with Spiggy, the short, fat carpet-fitter, andkeeps a horse in her tiny back garden. Britain is sold to Japan, and someone dies - I'm not saying who. It isn't Diana. Sue Townsend delivers another masterpiece - if you liked Adrian Mole, you'll love this. "I can think of no other author who could imagine this outrage (the abolition and rehousing of the Royal family) so graphically, demolish the institution so wittily and yet leave the family with its human dignity intact, as Sue Townsend has." - The Times "Certainly the most absorbing, entertaining, escapist, the funniest thing in print since Adrian Mole" - Ruth Rendell, the Daily Telegraph To sum up - this hilarious book will make you view royalty (both as an institution and as individuals) in a totally new light. Enjoy.
I really enjoyed this book and the premise was an inspired one. How would Royalty cope if they had to live on a council estate after years of priviledge. It had many funny parts and also serious parts. The queen coped alright with the change but the others had less success.I won’t tell you what happened to who but it is very good. The situations the Windsors find themselves in are believable and they are subject to the prejudice which many who live on council estate have to cope with. This makes you think (but not much).This book is for entertainment not to educate you
The Royal family finds itself on the street after the proclaimation of a revolutionary government. How will they cope with life on a council estate in the Midlands? A seminal comic masterpiece of our time, now published for the first time in Penguin. The Monarchy Has Been Dismantled; When a Republican party wins the General Election, their first act in power is to strip the royal family of their assets and titles and send them to live on a housing estate in the Midlands. Exchanging Buckingham Palace for a two-bedroomed semi in Hell Close (as the locals dub it), caviar for boiled eggs, servants for a social worker named Trish, the Queen and her family learn what it means to be poor among the great unwashed. But is their breeding sufficient to allow them to rise above their changed circumstance or deep down are they really just like everyone else?