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Among my husband's mammoth Christmas list ( he always knows exactly what he wants unfortunately ) there was a copy of Queen Camilla by Sue Townsend . He has been an ardent fan of Ms Townsend since her first Adrian Mole books . Having read all of those books up to and including The Cappuccino Years , he had seen this one and quite fancied it .
So here we are middle of February and he still hasn't looked at it , but I have . Having had some time to spare I picked this book up one evening not quite knowing what to expect . I have never read any of the author's other books and had not read any reviews of this particular book , so I had no idea what to expect .
The dust jacket shows a chicken , smoking a cigarette and wearing a crown so that's not much help . I decided to just dive straight in .
Inside the cover there is a rough map of what is called an exclusion zone . This includes Slapper alley , Pliers woman's house , Asbo gardens , Grice - a - g- go , "Everything a pound" shop , Frank Bruno House and Hell close . I had no idea what this was all about but everything soon became amusingly clear .
I won't spoil the "plot" but the book is set in an England which has seen radical changes . The dregs of society are now housed in exclusion zones . In the FEZ , the flowers exclusion zone , there are people living who have Asbo orders , are criminals , drug takers and also the royal family .
The book opens with Camilla having a fag on her back doorstep whilst Charles does the washing up in a new red bowl ; an impulse buy of his , bought that day , from the everything's a pound shop . After a full introduction to Charles' and Camilla's set up and their three dogs there is an interruption by the door bell . It's the Queen on a mission to see if Charles has any oil of cloves in his Homeopathic medicines , as she has horrible toothache . Further on she eventually has to see the pliers woman , which I think speaks for itself .
This is just a tiny part of the first few pages of what I found to be an increasingly humorous book . The picture painted of all the royals , and the rough and ready neighbours , of the FEZ is hilarious . By the end of the book I was there , believing this place and it's characters were real . Well almost . There are so many different characters and types , but yet many are so true to life .
The dogs play an important part in this book and put the final nail in the political party of the days coffin , culminating in them ceasing to be re-elected .
The political party in power at the start is led by a somewhat corrupt Jack Barker who is really hoping not to be voted back into power . The opposition led by Boy English certainly has plenty of similarities to the present opposition and its leader . As does Jack Barker and you know who .
Throughout the book the almost alter ego characters of people such as Camilla , The Queen , Prince Phillip etc are both amusing and realistic although the circumstances are rather far fetched . Still you never know :) However the Queen actually wanting to stay in the FEZ rather than return to her previous life , I don't think so .
Still it all makes for a comic , lively read . The hard book copy I read had 442 pages but I read it very quickly . It was one of those " I'll jut read one more page" books , that keeps your interest till the end .
It left me wanting a follow up . Whether or not there is one I am going to check out . I thought from what I'd seen in the shops there probably were similar ones by Sue Townsend , which lead up to this one . Looking at the inside back of the dust jacket I think this one is a follow up to The Queen and I and Number Ten . However reading this as a stand alone book I still really enjoyed it .
I shall just type a small passage sampler in :- "Charles urged ,'But does a dog have a soul?' The cleric faltered . Souls were not fashionable , nor was Heaven , and even God was currently out of favour with the religious community to which the Reverend had once belonged . It was why he had been exiled to the Flowers Exclusion Zone . He was still not entirely sure why he had been sent from his comfortable parish church in Suffolk to the hellhole he now officiated over . Was it Jerad? Or perhaps it was the piece he had written in the parish magazine , where he'd suggested that , 'If Jesus were alive today , he would probably recruit his disciples from the gay bars in Old Compton Street ' "
As you can see the style is very accessible and amusing . It is satirical and paints a picture of a strange England . I actually warmed to the caricatures of the royal family more than the real ones . Probably that's just me being a bit odd :) I will read it again shortly and I imagine pick up on much more second time around , as you often do . The characters I have mentioned plus many more will have you in stitches . I recommend this as a light , entertaining and different sort of read .
Thanks for reading Copyright Eiley
Facts:- Sue Townsend is an author and playwright who lives in Leicester . Queen Camilla retails on Amazon for £9.49 I bought the new , hard backed copy for £9.99 from Asda in December 2006 . It was published in October 2006 . ISBN 0-718-14856-8