Townsend, author of the phenomenally successful Adrian Mole books, here brings off an audacious notion with considerable elan. She imagines a Britain where an unforgiving, newly elected Republican Party decides that the entire Royal Family must learn to live like other Britons--or in their case, like desperately poor lower-class Britons on a hideous housing estate in a provincial city. A notable farceur, Townsend has terrific fun imagining how they would cope: the Queen buckles down sturdily, mindful of stiff-upper-lip duty; Prince Philip goes to pieces and takes to his bed; Margaret remains a royal pain, perpetually and irritably in search of a cigarette; Diana haunts thrift shops for designer castoffs and snares a flashy West Indian boyfriend; Charles, infatuated with a zaftig neighbor, gets involved in a brawl and is jailed , while his organic garden goes to pieces; Anne copes stolidly, much helped by the gift of a horse--and the Queen Mum, never quite aware of what is happening, dies peacefully in her little bungalow, and has a splendid horse-drawn funeral in a home-made coffin. Meanwhile Harris, the Queen's corgi, runs wild with a pack of mongrels. The book is uproarious and touching by turns, with a perfect eye and ear for the class gulfs in Britain and the appalling lot of those at the bottom of the heap. Only a silly throwaway ending disappoints--but how else to end such a cautionary tale? This was a huge seller in Britain, and should delight all royalty addicts here too. (Sept.)
This British version of the classic role-reversal plot provides an entertaining evening of quick reading. The plot develops after the royal family, from Queen Elizabeth to little princes Harry and William, are deposed after the ``republicans'' win an election. All royal possessions are confiscated, and the stunned royal family members are ushered out of Buckingham Palace into modest quarters in a common neighborhood. The trials and tribulations that each of the royals endures make for amusing reading. Townsend, a British author and playwright, spins a lighthearted tale that has touched the funny bones of enough readers across the Atlantic to propel her novel to the top spot on the British best sellers list. And there appears to be enough royal family watchers stateside to consider adding this to many library collections.-- Marlene Lee, Reedsport Branch Lib., Ore.