cover image Abdication


Juliet Nicolson. Atria, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4516-5883-5

Set in England in 1936, historian Nicolson’s debut novel explores the tumultuous love lives of two couples, set against the backdrop of a world bracing for another global conflict while still recovering from WWI. Prince of Wales Edward and American divorcée Wallis Simpson are entangled in a scandalous (real-life) love affair whose secrecy they try desperately to maintain, a challenge made all the more difficult after Edward’s ascension as king and concomitant thrust to the forefront of the public stage. Meanwhile, May Thomas, a chauffeur staying with Jewish relatives, falls in love with political Oxford undergraduate Julian Richardson, whose restlessness threatens their relationship. As if navigating an illicit royal love affair weren’t enough, Edward and Wallis’s situation becomes further complicated when Wallis’s childhood friend—the overweight “virgo intacta” Evangeline Nettlefold—shows up and her long-held resentments threaten to undo the monarchy. Though richly detailed and set in a dynamic time and place, the novel revolves primarily around the uninteresting and unlikable Evangeline, leaving the truly interesting characters of Edward and Wallis to wait in the wings. Agent: William Clark, William Clark Associates. (May)