By Juliet Nicolson
(Atria Books, Hardcover, 9781451658835, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 22, 2012
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The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.
During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach.
Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences.
Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May.
May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.
Juliet Nicolson is the author of The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm and The Great Silence: Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age. She read English at the University of Oxford and has worked in publishing in both the UK and the United States. She is the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and the daughter of Nigel Nicolson. She has two daughters, and lives with her husband in Sussex.
“I was completely gripped by the story of David and Wallis Simpson.... But no less compellingly drawn were the rest of Juliet Nicolson's cast of characters. The kindly Evangeline, driven to pathetic jealousy. The almost-but-thank-goodness-not-quite caddishness and earnestness of Julian (just a perfect rendition of a man of that era), the sweet but fiery May, the love and fear felt by Florence and the genial Philip.... Goodness, Abdication really is good. I'm in awe of Juliet's ability to move from nonficition to fiction so seamlessly.”
-Jessica Fellowes, New York Times bestselling author of The World of Downton Abbey
“In historian Nicolson's first fiction, a Remains of the Day ambience is played out against the backdrop of George V's death and Edward VIII's ascension to the throne.... Nicolson writes knowledgeably of weekends in the country, swank parties and the ironic-supercilious posture of the British upper class. The novel rings with authenticity... a period drama ready to be adapted by the BBC and rerun on PBS.”
“Absorbing.... As the abdication crisis deepens and Britain is thrust ever closer to the perils of war, the lives of Nicolson's characters undergo significant changes, all rendered by her keen comprehension of human nature. And her imaginative prose adds to the pleasure.”
“Abdication beautifully evokes the troubled thirties, with its high-stakes politics, easy money, and social tensions. Juliet Nicolson is an outstanding historian who brings the full panoply of her talent and research to the task of recreating the abdication crisis and its effect on Britain. This is a wonderful novel.”
-Amanda Foreman, award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in America’s Civil War