Published by: Atria Books
Published on: May 22, 2012
Page Count: 352
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook sent to me for review as part of Solid Gold Reviewer program through Audiobook Jukebox.
Audiobook Published by: AudioGo
Narrator: Carole Boyd
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 49 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
When I picked up Abdication, I was anticipating a gossipy kind of novel about Edward VIII’s decision to marry Wallis Simpson at the cost of the British throne. What I got was so much deeper and more meaningful than I’d expected. This story is largely told through the point of view of two newly arrived foreigners and a young British college student coming of age. May Thomas was born in Barbados to Scottish parents. She and her brother left Barbados for England to live with their maternal cousin, a tailor who married the daughter of his Jewish boss. May finds work in London as the private chauffeur of a member of British parliament, Sir Philip Blunt. As such, she comes in contact with Evangeline Nettlefold, an obese, American spinster who was left out of her mother’s will entirely. Evangeline is in England at the request of Lady Joan Blunt, her godmother. Evangeline is also the school friend of Wallis Simpson. Evangeline may be in her 40s, but that doesn’t keep her from misinterpreting male kindness as interest, even when the supposed interest comes from young Julian Richardson, an Oxford friend of Sir Philip’s son. Julian is trying to find his place in the chaotic political climate between the two World Wars as well as navigate his feelings for Sir Philip’s beautiful chauffeur. Through their eyes, their interactions with key figures of the day, and their interpretations of the tumultuous political climate, Juliet Nicolson wrote an engaging novel that made me feel as though I’d lived in England during 1936.
I first listened to a Carole Boyd narration earlier this fall with The St. Zita Society. I loved the way her narration evoked a sense of London. With Abdication, I experienced Boyd’s broad vocal range with several different accents, especially those of Americans Evangeline and Wallis Simpson. Her narration of both Evangeline and Wallis were magnificent. Her Evangeline, a forced syrupy sweet, betrayed the character’s inner desperation to all who met her. As much as I sympathized with her situation, I understood entirely how other characters felt about her from her voice alone. Boyd’s Wallis Simpson was worth listening to this audiobook alone. She gave the woman who scandalized the British monarchy so much personality and I loved every minute she was front and center in the novel. I will definitely be on the lookout for novels narrated by Carole Boyd in the future.
The time period between World War I and World War II is fascinating. I enjoyed how Juliet Nicolson incorporated the changing view toward Germans, Jews, and fascists in England. You have people who cannot get over the personal devastation that resulted from World War I and others who feel that Germany was not only being too harshly punished, but that Hitler’s politics was something good for all of Europe. In many ways, the new King Edward’s decision to abdicate his throne in order to marry a divorced American socialite was minor compared to the growing unrest. Within this climate, Nicolson created interesting characters with their own experiences and agendas. I enjoyed every minute spent with Abdication. The time period, scandals, and personal battles helped to fill the currently vacant Downton Abbey shaped hole in my heart. Regardless, I would have welcomed this read with relish. I highly recommend this audiobook.