Review: “Queen Camilla” by Sue Townsend
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 The Republicans are overthrown, the new dog laws are repealed and the Royal Family are given a job to do in Windsor Castle where they form a living tableau for the edification of paying gawkers and tourists.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.
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.
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.
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.