Further Reading: Queen Elizabeth Behind the Scenes
Queen Elizabeth II is undeniably elegant, reserved, unflagging in her attention to her many duties and fond of her corgis and horses. But despite her decades in the public eye (and her appearance with James Bond--er, Daniel Craig--at the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic games), she remains largely an enigma. Who is the woman behind the royal façade?
William Kuhn takes a quirky, fresh approach to this question in his debut novel, Mrs Queen Takes the Train. Already feeling depressed and rather fed up with her endless round of appearances and charity events, Elizabeth is saddened by the prime minister's news that the Royal Train will soon be decommissioned. Disguised in a hoodie, she walks out of Buckingham Palace and hops a train to Scotland, headed for the royal yacht Britannia, moored near Edinburgh. Followed by half a dozen members of her household, she traverses the length of the country, meeting some rather unusual members of her public along the way. Kuhn deftly intertwines the story of Elizabeth's reign with the lives of six vastly different people, none of whom will remain unchanged by their journey.
Kuhn slips in a sly reference to another fictional portrait of the queen: Alan Bennett's charming novella The Uncommon Reader. Discovering a bookmobile on the palace grounds one day, the queen (accompanied by her corgis) stops in to investigate. Feeling duty-bound to check out a book, she surprises herself and the royal household by becoming an avid reader, interrupting her packed schedule to steal a few more pages and upsetting everyone from her husband to the Prime Minister.
For a more factual but equally interesting look at the queen, Andrew Marr's biography promises to show readers The Real Elizabeth. Marr explores Elizabeth's family history and historical context before painting a detailed portrait of her long reign. He touches on politics, economics, the delicate interplay between the queen and Parliament, and the royal family's problems in recent decades. He ends with speculations on the future of the monarchy in a rapidly changing Britain. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams