Thursday, August 30, 2018

Review: Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul

Each generation seems to have at least one historical event that they so vividly remember, they can tell you where they were when it happened. I was in math class when the Challenger exploded. I was on the way to drop my two oldest off at preschool on 9/11 when the first plane hit. And I was at my family's summer cottage watching my baby son bounce in his Johnny-Jump-Up when I heard that Princess Diana had died. My mother and I watched that desperately sad funeral on an ancient TV with poor and intermittent reception. The worldwide reaction to her untimely death certainly proved she was the People's Princess and the Queen of Hearts even if her divorce from Prince Charles had rocked the British monarchy in a way not seen since Edward VIII's 1936 abdication to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Author Gill Paul connects these two very different women, each of whom had a lasting effect on the British monarchy, and connects them in her latest novel, Another Woman's Husband.

Vintage clothing store owner Rachel and her boyfriend, documentary film maker Alex, are in Paris and have just gotten engaged when they come upon a terrible car accident in the Alma Tunnel on their way to dinner. They are stunned to discover that one of the car's passengers is Princess Diana. While Alex tries to help and comfort the trapped princess, Rachel tries to disperse the paparazzi who ghoulishly continue to photograph the crash and the injured princess. As Alex and Rachel finally leave the scene of the accident, Alex bends down and picks up a small platinum heart that must have come off of the princess' bracelet, giving it to Rachel to hold for safekeeping. After their return to England, Rachel is confronted with a break-in at her shop that she's not sure she can weather financially and Alex decides that he is the perfect person to film a documentary about Diana's death, especially now that certain aspects of it don't seem to add up to definitively calling it an accident. Rachel's financial woes and Alex's single minded absorption by the film, despite Rachel's misgivings about the ethicality of some of his methods, start to cause stress and unhappiness in their relationship even as their wedding draws closer.

Alternating with the story of Rachel and Alex's strained relationship, is the story of Mary Kirk. When she is a young girl, she meets Bessiewallis Warfield at summer camp and then again later at school. She and the teenage Wallis become best of friends even if Mary feels consistently outshone by her flirtatious and outgoing friend. Mary is there for Wallis through their debutante year; when Wallis marries a glamorous, and it turns out alcoholic, pilot; through her disastrous divorce, through the deaths of Wallis' stepfather and then mother; she introduces Wallis to her second husband, Mary's friend Ernest Simpson; and even when she has clearly become the Prince of Wales' mistress. Mary's loyalty is unswerving until her own future happiness is on the line.

The two story lines go back and forth with little to connect them until the end of the novel. Each of the two separate stories is told in third person limited, meaning that the reader sees Alex and how Rachel feels about their fraying connection only from her perspective and sees the scandalous but captivating Wallis through the eyes of Mary, her good friend and staunch defender for so many decades. The historical time line about the eventual Duchess of Windsor is far more interesting than the 1997 story but the latter is completely invented and imagines very little about Princess Diana's life, perhaps in deference to her sons, focusing instead on Rachel and Alex. The details on Wallis Simpson's life are fascinating and well researched and the afterword is clear about which details are culled from research and which are invented to help the story move along. Interestingly, none of the information on either Wallis or Diana contradicts the public perception of them. Diana was a good, kind, and beloved friend while Wallis was a selfish, Nazi-sympathizing social climber. The connection that Paul draws between the two women is a fragile one but it causes the entire novel to not only come together but makes it, retrospectively, go in the first place. Although the bulk of the information about Diana centers on her death and what really happened in the Alma Tunnel that night rather than her life before, during, and after her marriage to Charles, readers who are interested in the royal family will still enjoy this fun novel, especially if they have any interest in the Abdication Crisis and the woman who nearly toppled the British monarchy.

For more information about Gill Paul and the book, check out her webpage, and follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. The story of Wallis Simpson has always fascinated me!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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