The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor

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The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: In an alternative history, with Edward VIII still on the throne in autumn 1939, Cynthia Kirkpatrick finds that war opens up her life, bringing the freedom she has always dreamed of, alongside worries she never expected to confront.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 371 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099578895

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I jumped at the chance to review this novel. I enjoy reading books based within this period and was fascinated by the premise of what if? proposed on the back cover. The prologue was beautifully written and I hoped that was an indicator for the rest of the book.

Then we were plunged into the world of Cynthia Kirkpatrick, living a life of luxury in Ceylon, but feeling horribly trapped and bored. At first I thought Taylor was over-emphasising the dullness of her life so that readers would have a greater sense of sympathy for her. Unfortunately, as the book unfolded I realised that Taylor chooses to overstate a lot of these details generally, losing some more important character information as a result.

Cynthia and her friends and family are described in ways that tell us very little about them as people. There is some humour but there is also a lot of pointless dialogue – the sort of casual chit chat that can be used to convey characteristics. However, there is so much, my overall impression of the characters, at the start, was that they were very fond of talking but not really contributing anything to the story.

I experienced a sense of relief when the story moved on to London, but the new characters who enter Cynthia’s life are not that much more interesting. Although individual parts of Taylor’s writing are tight, well observed and compelling, as a whole, the book is verbose... I think if you are the type of reader who enjoys that style, this may add to the appeal, but at times I felt I was scrabbling about in search of narrative to really move the story forward.

The most interesting characters are the ones based on real life personalities. I was not familiar with all of them, so it was not a case of finding myself in easier territory with people I felt I knew a little from history. Interestingly, Taylor writes much better in the sections that are not based on narrative. Letters, diary entries and articles flow much better than the story-telling parts. The whole also seemed rather shapeless somehow, which puzzled me as there is nothing wrong with the structure of the book. I think it felt that way to me because the characters are hard to engage with, which the major events seem less interesting than they could have been.

I fully appreciate that there is realism in the overblown way in which many of the characters speak. However, there are times where it is worth modifying those speech patterns for the flow of the novel; clearly it was Taylor’s choice not to do that and I accept that many readers will agree that changing a realistic historical issue is not the right thing to do. Again, this makes me feel that this book will be enjoyed by readers who like that particular style and for those of us who need more clarity and fewer words, it isn’t a good match.

If you are considering reading this, my advice would be to look at the main body of the book and see if the style suits you. The spoilers are all on a slow reveal so if you delve into the middle, you are not really risking ruining the book. I would also bear in mind that the inclusion of an alternate history is less of a feature than the description implies. There are certainly readers who enjoy this style of writing and if you are one of them, you might be better equipped to understand the characters and to get more from their adventures than I did.

If this period appeals to you then you might like to try Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson.

Buy The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor at Amazon.com.


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