The War Memoir of (HRH) Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (Review)

July 24, 2010

Book cover for "The War Memoir of HRH Wallis Duchess of Windsor" by Kate Auspitz.Title: The War Memoir of (HRH) Wallis, Duchess of Windsor

Author: Kate Auspitz

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 224

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers program

From the cover:

Was it the greatest love story of the twentieth century or a bloodless coup?

She was the first person to be named Woman of the Year by Time magazine. Yet Wallis Simpson is one of the most reviled women in history. The socialclimbing divorcée was portrayed as a snob and a voluptuary who came close to destroying the British monarchy. But could she have been the pawn of Allied statesmen determined to remove a Nazi sympathizer from power?

The memoir, apparently found in her former Paris home, is said to have been written in the Duchess’s own hand. Though the Duchess is a highly unreliable narrator, Kate Auspitz, an American academic, is a meticulous historian. She supplies twenty-six pages of footnotes that ground the story firmly in published recollections of the major figures of the time. The plot rests on little-known historic details that make Wallis’s role in the events entirely plausible…

This is one of those historical fiction novels that could almost get away with being a “true” biography.

The War Memoir of (HRH) Wallis, Duchess of Windsor starts out with a historian being asked to look at a set of papers and other artifacts that are “found” in one of the former homes of Wallis. While the author initially expresses some doubt about whether the papers are, in fact, real and accurate, she soon decides that they really are the personal effects of Wallis, who designates herself “HRH” (Her Royal Highness) on the cover of the memoir, even though she was never given that title in reality. The rest of the novel is essentially meant to be a direct reading of said memoir.

I have to admit, I really don’t know my British history very well – I had no idea who Wallis was before I started reading this novel. That made it easier for me to see eye-to-eye with Auspitz’s perspective of Wallis, portraying her as a pawn used by the Allies against the Nazis, as well as a tool to throw her husband, a Nazi-sympathizer, off of the throne of England. In as much as The War Memoir is historical fiction, Auspitz peppers the text with endnotes, giving historical corroboration to as many facts as possible, which makes the novel quite believable as a possible alternate history.

This novel wasn’t really something that I likely would have read if it weren’t offered to me as a review copy; I’m not really much for this era in historical fiction, particularly when it is told as a “memoir” or diary, only giving one side of the story. Taken as it was, though, it wasn’t bad. So if you’re into this era in British history, or interested in Wallis or her husband, this might be a good book for you.

Rating:

2 Comments

  • zibilee July 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I have been waiting to see a review on this book, and I think it sounds wonderful! I am big into historical fiction, particularly books set in England, and so, even though I don’t know much about Wallis, this book sounds like something that I’d love to try. Thanks for the wonderful review. I will be adding this to the wish list now!

    • Carina July 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm

      If you’re into historical fiction, definitely go for it! I can’t help but feel that I didn’t enjoy it as much as someone who’s “into” that era and that type of fiction. 🙂

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