Review: Queen Camilla by Sue Townsend

Review: “Queen Camilla” by Sue Townsend

Cover of Cover of Queen Camilla


The book is a continuation of the other1992 novel by Townsend – “The Queen and I”. I haven’t read the previous part but this one I would call an “almost-absurd comedy”. Before I explain why, let me present a short synopsis.

It is set in the Great Britain which became nothing less than a totalitarian nanny state in the disguise of republicanism. The ruling party is called the Cromwellian party and acts accordingly, trying to outlaw angling and having more than one dog in your household. Their opponents, called the Neo Cons, have a youngish leader, Boy English, who relies solely on his own attractiveness and media hype. The Royals have been dismissed to live in  a special Exclusion Zone along with other misfits: single mothers, drug addicts, alcoholics, people morbidly obese, criminals, suspected terrorists etc. They are doing amazingly well, mingling with the neighbours and even earning from time to time some money (Prince William works for the scaffolding tzar who practically owns the whole Zone, Arthur Grice). But the time of a great change is near – the Neo Cons plan to restore the monarchy and they want to see old dear Liz on the throne again. Elizabeth abdicates, though; Charles is unwilling to assume the crown but his oldest son William, disgruntled with the manual work, seems to be more than keen. However, a long-lost son, the result of a brief fling between Charles and Camilla back in the 60s, makes himself known. Despite his illegitimate status there is officially no bar in the new England to his inheriting the crown – and it might spell disaster because he is a frightful oik and a control freak. It is a comedy, though, not “1984” or “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, so there are no tragic events in store. Finally all’s well that end’s well – at least for the nation’s dogs. The Republicans are overthrown, the new dog laws are repealed and the Royal Family are given a job to do in Windsor Castle where they form a living tableau for the edification of paying gawkers and tourists. They were better in the wild.

What I liked:

I am a dog lover so to me the ability of the dogs to communicate to each other makes this story really interesting. Conversations of the dogs are put in human words, and that I found the funniest part.

What I didn’t like:

Townsend’s humour here seems dripped with acid and sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or not. After all, she chose difficult topics, writing about serious social issues: home care, old age, unemployment, low standards of education. It’s difficult to turn these problems into a comedy and, in my opinion, her attempt failed.
I am also not a big fan of her narration – in my view her style is more appropriate for theater or cinema – good dialogues, nothing more.
I also hated the ending. So many plotlines were left hanging…what happened to Gin and Tonic, a pair of lovely dogs left uncared for, what happened to Dwayne and his belowed Parris? We will never know…unless there’s a third book coming.

 ETA: No Polish girl or woman, nanny or otherwise, could be named Katya (as it is the case in the book). ‘Katya’ is Russian or Ukrainian. If she is Polish, she would be called Kasia. A slight difference perhaps but try to name a fictional English lass without Irish roots e.g. Siobhan.

The final verdict:

If you are a fan of Townsend’s books you might want to read it having some time to kill. I found it rather bland and unchallenging with few bright spots, though.

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8 Responses to Review: Queen Camilla by Sue Townsend

  1. Tracy says:

    I read The Queen and I a very long time ago, the two do sound very similar. The Cromwellians versus the Neocons – what a choice! (Think my vote is for 'none of the above')

  2. anachronist says:

    Lol Tracy, your choice is well-understood.

  3. anachronist says:

    Right you are, Brooke. Hoot it is.

  4. I am a big fan of her Adrian Mole books. I am surprised there was another book in this same vein. I have to agree with you Anachronist, the plotline doesn't work very well. I think this style of writing is called 'distopia' and comes from someone who is a bit discouraged with people. Reminds me also of Vonnegut's 'Welcome to the Monkey House" – Harrison Bergeron.

  5. anachronist says:

    Distopia is the right term ( I didn't know that one – thanks the Red Witch!) but "a bit discouraged" is to put it very mildly. From the Wiki:The first known use of dystopian, as recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary, is a speech given before the British House of Commons by John Stuart Mill in 1868, in which Mill denounced the government's Irish land policy: "It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable."So nothing new under the sun…do not also forget about other very well-known distopia – "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. I think I must refresh my memory on that one.

  6. Tracy says:

    I finished Queen Camilla this afternoon – I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, though the dogs having voices was very distracting (I could never remember which dog had which owner and there were so many of them) and not really necessary. I thought the political satire was pretty sharp, and unfortunately all too true – [Jack Barker]failed to win England's independence from America; he was spending billions on an asymmetrical intractable war in the Middle East. The roads and motorways were almost at a standstill. He was still sunsidizing British farmers for doing fuck all. The rich were vastly richer, and the poor seemed to be morphing into a deviant subculture.And I loved PC Dwayne, a man after my own heart!I agree with you that it was more tragedy than comedy, though I did find it extremely funny that the PM's desperate efforts to lose the election started backfiring when he started telling the truth, and his popularity soared!Did you re-read Brave New World, anachronist? Huxley's Utopian book, Island, is also well worth reading.

  7. anachronist says:

    I read "Brave New World" long time ago but "Island" lands on my TBR list, thanks!I did find it extremely funny that the PM's desperate efforts to lose the election started backfiring when he started telling the truth, and his popularity soared!That was really grim funny! It seems telling the truth never pays!

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