Juliet Nicolson’s Abdication is set in the tumultuous times of 1930s that saw lot of changes in both Europe and America. The entire plot is built around the death of England’s beloved King George V, the love affair of new King Edward VIII with Wallis Simpson to his abdication of the British throne. The author has beautifully brought out many historical aspects, prevailing social tensions, the attitude of the high class society and of course, political leanings of various classes during those days. She brings out various events and historical happenings vividly and interestingly through the eyes of May Thomas.
The storyline of Abdication is as follows: After the death of George V, England has a new king, Edward VIII. But for all the confident pomp and ceremony of the accession, it is a turbulent time. When 19-year-old May Thomas arrives in Liverpool, her first job as secretary and chauffeuse to Sir Philip Blunt introduces her to the upper echelons of British society - and to Julian, a young man of conscience whom, despite all barriers of class, she cannot help but fall for.
But hidden truths, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities are everywhere, and the threat of another world war becomes increasingly inevitable.
In fact, the abdication crisis set amidst prevailing social tensions, petty jealousies and political upheavals, effortlessly moves from non-fiction to fiction and clearly demonstrates the talent of this historian-cum-author. One is amazed at the author’s talent of putting across various historical events in the right perspective and so easily woven into the plot that one flips from chapter to chapter without taking a break. Juliet Nicolson has introduced each character whether historical or fictional as well as described their family ties, hidden secrets, romance, fascist leanings and resentment with lot of detail and attention.
There are two main characters in this book, a young lady, May Thomas and middle-aged Evangeline Nettleson whose lives run parallel to each other. May arrives from Barbados with her brother to make a new beginning in England while Evangeline comes here from America on an invitation from her friend, Wallis Simpson, the friend of King Edward. Staying with her cousin Nat in London along with his Jewish relatives, May gets a job as a chauffeur-cum-secretary with Sir Philip and gets to see many things at close quarters, has to hide lot of secrets, makes new friends and further falls for Julian, crossing her social boundaries. In fact, May is the link between the common people and the upper crust of the English society.
On the other hand, the well etched character of Evangeline comes across as a fat, neurotic, depressed person who ultimately loses her friendship with Mrs Simpson because of her own inner turmoil and petty jealousies.
A historical fiction, one gets to know about the British society, its culture, its royalty, the beginning of the horrors of World War II, the hatred towards the Jews and the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, Berlin Olympics and finally about King Edward who abdicated his throne for a much married American.
An engrossing historical fictional work to the core, Abdication takes you to a different world of a different era seamlessly and also brings to life the historical events of that period brilliantly.