If this story was a tapestry it would consist of the most magnificent colours and patterns woven in to it. What a thrill, to read a book that is so engrossing and so consistently true to the characters, and the history it tells about. The first chapter is set in London in 1921, with a sad and lonely mother and baby. The next chapter is set in London in 1997, and features a talented journalist, Victoria. The following chapter is set in Brisbane in 1981, where we meet an old woman living there, who is Maddie.
From there, we begin to piece together the characters and their connections. Using the past revelations, the reader gradually begins to build up the tale as each person’s story is expanded, and their relationships become clear. The main character, Maddie, is a smart young lady who applied for a job as a maid on the train that was to carry Prince Edward on his tour of Australia. She was hired because her father was a well-known poet, although in her last job as a waitress she had poured a pot of boiling tea into a man’s lap. Because of circumstances a huge pile of letters to the Prince were waiting to be answered and Maddie was sidelined into this where she excelled.
Gradually she begins to meet the other people who are part of the Prince’s entourage. They have their own stories to tell and we hear about the incredibly personal losses many of the staff have suffered because of the war. Most of the letters to which Maddie has to draft replies, are for local Australians who had suffered losses. The Prince, while a complex character, is also quite shallow and mindful of his own needs.
In 1997 Princess Diana died in a car crash. Victoria, the journalist, outlines the public grief and documents the time we all remember so well. She has been asked to visit an author in Australia for an interview and is happy to escape a perplexing relationship and a country in mourning. That author turns out to be Maddie, who is now in her nineties. Maddie has specifically requested that Victoria interview her, and because her first book was a best seller, her request is granted.
Weaving in and out of countries and times, all the threads of this story begin to mesh together in a wonderful and exciting way. The basic facts of the story regarding Diana and much earlier Edward Prince of Wales are true, but the author has so richly woven this fabric of people’s lives together, that it is entirely plausible and certainly believable.
Along with wonderful language, and humour this is a truly satisfying book to piece together and enjoy.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|