I’ve always had an interest in Wallis Simpson. She doesn’t fare well in English history, at least not of my parents generation, or from what I remember of documentaries and school. Anne Sebba, author of That Woman, was at Daunt Books Festival back in March and I wanted to buy her book then, but for reasons I can’t remember I held back. Since then I’ve had a desire to read more about Wallis.
Lives of historical women, written as fiction, have always entertained me (The Paris Wife et al.) and when I saw Wallis by Anne Edwards I felt as though fate has taken a hand.
What was it about Wallis Simpson that made Edward VIII give up his throne? The twice-married Southern Belle was neither rich nor beautiful. Yet somehow, she managed to capture the heart of a British king.
Was Wallis just a proud and wildly ambitious manipulator, willing to use the men she loved as stepping stones to riches and success? Or was she a courageous and sympathetic survivor, bravely struggling for self-esteem and the world’s respect?
Admittedly, I wanted to read more about how Wallis met Prince Edward, so at times her life before that went on too long for my liking. Yet, it is a very thorough and interesting telling of what happened to propel Wallis to the moment of becoming his wife – setting her as a hero rather than a husband stealing harlot.
Coming from humble means, and always given the impression she deserved better – but life treated her family unkindly – Wallis appeared to be a women with an inferiority complex. Understandable considering her relatives. From an age where status and public perception were everything, Wallis refused to stick to the old fashion principles that confined her.
She married three times, once I believe to a man she loved, and that wasn’t Edward. Her first husband was an alcoholic and abusive, but what else could she do but marry in times when it wasn’t seemly for a women of a certain class to work. Sadly, Wallis was the master of her own destiny, and she worked her life to reach a certain end. An ending that perhaps she didn’t actually want. I would like to think that now, in a post-Diana age, Wallis would not be the villain she was made out to be at the time.
As with any book of fiction based on a real person, I’ve taken this story with a pinch of salt. Though it was a pleasant and emotive mode – easier to sympathise when you feel as though you are hearing her voice, rather than a sympathetic biographer.
How do you feel about Wallis?
I requested Wallis from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.