Stuck indoors recovering from an August cold deserves to be compensated by reading a delightful, but not strenuous novel like, “The Queen Takes the Train,” by William Kuhn. This biographer and historian from Boston, Massachusetts, has published prior books including the titles “Reading Jackie” and “Henry & Mary Ponsonby.” On this adventure, he chose Queen Elizabeth II as the subject for his first novel.
Kuhn’s touch is light and witty yet also insightful as he opens his novel with The Queen struggling with her computer. She had already called the IT woman three times for help and was too embarrassed to call again. The IT woman had given her the Italian phrase for the Web browser, which The Queen translated for her own use as “navigate in rot.” Her frustration served to highlight her vague feeling of depression.
When The Queen acknowledged she was feeling her age and barely coping with a general feeling of sadness, she chose to visit her favorite horse in the Royal Mews and since it had started sleeting, borrowed the horse’s attendant’s hoodie to keep her warm.
Soon The Queen discovered that the hoodie was a great disguise and proceeded to walk through London toward a cheese shop that carried her horses’ favorite cheese. Next, The Queen wanted to visit her beloved ship the Britannia and her favorite castle, Balmoral, by taking the public train to Edinburgh.
The essence of the novel weaves the relationship of six people who band together into three sets to locate The Queen, save her public embarrassment, and to beat the authorities from finding The Queen first and making a crisis out of an old
One team included Mrs. Shirley MacDonald, The Queen’s dresser, and Lady Anne Bevil an aristocrat who had come on hard financial times and was hired as a lady-in-waiting. The two women were jealous of one another and had to overcome their mutual hostility to join forces to find The Queen.
Rebecca Rinaldi, who worked at the Royal Mews caring for The Queen’s horses, much preferred animals to humans and was not receptive to the Cheese Shop’s salesman and poet, Rajiv Laroia’s, overtures of friendship. In his own way, Rajiv was also awkward among humans. Rebecca and Rajiv made a timid team to help locate The Queen.
William de Morgan served as a butler and was committed to his duty. He had to work with Major Luke Thomason, equerry, who was suffering from traumatic stress disorder from two tours in the Far East.
One team went to Scotland by air, one by train and one by bus and The Queen did get there before them. The novel follows the various mismatched teams as they learned to cooperate and respect each person.
Of course, the true winner was The Queen who was able to ask for help with her depression and found she could compromise her role enough to reach out in kindness to others.
“Mrs. Queen Takes the Train” may be found in the Cabell County Public Library.
Hazel Palmer is a Cabell County resident, an avid reader, and a supporter of the Cabell County Library.