Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train: Book Review

Published 16 October 2012.
The novel Mrs. Queen Takes the Train (2012) offers a great mix of humor, adventure, romance and social commentary.

The title and jacket flap let the readers know they will be following Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) on an unscheduled trip to Scotland.

This expectation of a humorous adventure tale is a bit misleading.

Yes, we get to see the Queen travel in disguise among common British subjects as she journeys from the palace to Scotland. However, the majority of the book focuses on the six palace affiliates who are trying to locate her.

The novel has an "ensemble cast" of seven characters.

Because four of these characters are 50 plus (and the author is in midlife himself), I found this book has some interesting explorations of age-related concerns.

In an interview, Kuhn explains that part of interest was to imagine Elizabeth working through age-related concerns. The author's own father was born the same year as the Queen, which led Kuhn to draw parallels. Watching his father manage age-related concerns made him wonder how the Queen might be doing the same.

In the novel, the Queen is in her mid 80s and reviewing her life events and life meaning. Her lady in waiting Anne Bevil is in her 70s and wondering how long she can keep working. The same is true for the queen's dresser, Shirley McDonald. And the senior Butler, William de Morgan, is at midlife and wondering if his major identity should be so strongly tied to his career.

We also meet an equerry war veteran in his 30s, an Eton graduate and cheese seller in his 20s and a stable girl in her 20s.  These three help illustrate how the Queen's world is growing more diverse and complex, requiring her to adapt as a ruler in the 21st Century.

The first half of the novel provides background information on these six characters, so it takes a while for the Queen to even board the train.

Yes, the novel does have a lot of detail about age-related concerns. But three of the characters are young adults, so Kuhn also explores some of the concerns of younger people--receiving a formal education, gaining work experience, self-discovery by trying on different vocations and relationships for size, separating from parents and their expectations, and finding a life partner.

Once I figured out that the novel is also a study of modern England disguised as a funny fantasy about a Queen in late life, I had an easier time enjoying it. I find Kuhn's novel has something to offer Anglophiles of all ages.


Books about Aging


  1. An interesting premise for a book. But I'm still stuck on that baklava recipe. LOL
    Carol Cassara

  2. I've never heard of this author. I enjoy historical novels of all degrees as I feel quite ignorant of so much history. Add in this age-related (young and older) and this sounds like a good one to add to my reading list. Thank you for sharing as this is one I may not have ever considered.

    1. It's informative without being dry. Some of it is speculative, but I still felt as though I learned a bit about palace life and the queen.

  3. Hello Karen D. Austin and thank you for writing such a sensitive review of my book. You're right on the money about my age (58). You're also right that I'm curious about good ways of getting older. Anyway, it's so kind of you to post and I'm grateful.

  4. I read and greatly enjoyed this book, I could actually imagine it happening, that the Queen went walk about. I found the book to be very upbeat.

    1. Agreed! It was a fun book, Terra. I'm glad to hear from someone else who read it.