That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

Anne Sebba. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-00296-9
“I hope to humanize rather than demonize” the woman for whose sake King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne, writes Sebba (Jennie Churchill: Winston’s American Mother) in this controversial biography that was a bestseller in Britain. The author, using interviews, previously unavailable letters, and media accounts, explores how Simpson, a spunky Southern belle, changed her life after two divorces and numerous love affairs on two continents, seized the heart of then prince of Wales, and weathered the wrath of the royals and the hostile British press. Two startling speculations concerning Simpson’s medical and psychological state attribute her sexual fierceness and flirtatiousness to a possible form of hermaphroditism and the need to emphasize her femininity. Sebba discloses the tremendous pressure from the royal family and high society on the new king to place English tradition above his bond to the American divorcée with her dubious background. Sebba details the life after the abdication, in which the duchess proved herself a resourceful survivor. This accomplished biography is smart, eloquent, and unafraid to go beyond the myth of the duchess of Windsor Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates (U.K.). (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/2011
Release date: 03/13/2012
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