Coming off a long weekend, there should be no excuses for not having lengthy, witty reviews pre-written for this week. Despite some wonderful times spent with family and friends, I had more than enough time to knock off a few reviews. But I did not. I have been feeling a bit under the weather so instead of sitting diligently at my computer and concentrating I have been curling up on the couch in front of the television where every channel seems obsessively devoted to preparing us for Friday’s Royal Wedding. I had held out until now. I had laughed at the merchandising, scoffed at the trashy programs, and generally ignored the magazine covers at the grocery store checkout. But with only a few days left, I am surrendering myself to the insane media hype. Because it’s fun and why shouldn’t it be enjoyed, even if much if my enjoyment comes from mocking (the media, you understand me, not the happy couple)? Most importantly, it means I have now seen William & Kate: The Movie, which brought me an intensity of joy that can only be provoked by truly awful television programming. It also means that I can’t stop watching the T-Mobile Royal Wedding video, which, unlike the TV movie, is rather spectacularly well cast:
But, in a more literary vein, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite novels inspired by the Windsor family, all enjoyable and, unlike the current television coverage, intelligent:
Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
Freddy is the Prince of Wales, Fredericka his troublesome wife. An overeducated, bumbling anachronism, Freddy commits one glorious gaffe after another, for which he is massacred daily in the British press. Golden-haired Fredericka is frivolous, empty-headed, and fond of wearing spectacular clothing with revealing necklines. Because of the epic public relations disasters caused by these wayward heirs to the throne, they are sent, in a little-known ancient tradition, on a quest to colonise a strange and barbarous land: America. In a tour (de force) of the United States, they are parachuted into the gleaming hell of industrial New Jersey and make their way across the country – riding freight trains, washing dishes, stealing art, gliding down the Mississippi, impersonating dentists, fighting forest fires, and becoming ineluctably enmeshed in the madness of a presidential campaign. Amid the collisions of their royal assumptions with their life on the road, they rise to their full potential, gain the dignity and humility required of great monarchs and good people, and learn to love one another
The Queen and I by Sue Townsend (also see sequel, Queen Camilla)
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?
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.