#BookReview Untitled: The Real Wallis Simpson by Anna Pasternak

UntitledAbout the Book

Who was the real Wallis: an opportunistic American social climber, a master manipulator or the true love of Edward’s life? Amid the cacophony of condemnation her story has become obfuscated. Untitled is an intimate biography of one of the most misunderstood women in British royal history.

His charisma and glamour ensured him the status of a rock star prince. Yet Edward gave up the British throne, the British Empire and his position as Emperor of India, to marry his true love, American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

So much gossip and innuendo has been levelled at Wallis Simpson that it has become nearly impossible to discern the real woman. Many have wondered why, when Edward could have had anyone he desired, he was smitten with this unusual American woman. As her friend Herman Rogers said to her in 1936 when news of her affair with Edward broke: ‘Much of what is being said concerns a woman who does not exist and never did exist.’

History is mostly perceived from the perspective of his-story. But what about her story? Anna Pasternak’s new book is the first ever to give Wallis a chance and a voice to show that she was a warm, loyal, intelligent woman adored by her friends, who was written off by cunning, influential Establishment men seeking to diminish her and destroy her reputation. As the author argues, far from being the villain of the abdication, she was the victim.

Anna Pasternak is appearing at Henley Literary Festival 2019

Format: e-book (369 pp.)    Publisher: William Collins
Published: 7th March 2019   Genre: Biography, History, Nonfiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Untitled: The Real Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor on Goodreads


My Review

Anna Pasternak nails her colours pretty unashamedly to the mast when she talks about the book being fuelled by a desire to rehabilitate Wallis in history. Untitled paints the Duchess of Windsor in a positive light, putting forward her side of the story and attempting to quash some, if not all, of the accusations that have been levelled at her. The list of sources and references at the back of the book demonstrate the detailed research undertaken by the author.

I was surprised to learn of the extremes to which the government went in their opposition to the relationship between Edward and Wallis Simpson, including listening in to their private telephone conversations.

However, I was left with a picture of two people so wrapped up in each other that the impact of their actions on others ceased to matter or just simply did not occur to them. At times, the behaviour of Wallis and Edward was either naive or bordered on the crass and their lavish lifestyle was far removed from the experience of the majority of Edward’s subjects. However, no-one with any feelings would surely wish for them the sadness of their final years – declining health, exile and manipulation by others.

Untitled is also the story of a family torn apart by a decision regarded variously as an act of selfishness, betrayal and a failure of duty. The author depicts how the refusal by his mother, Queen Mary, to receive Wallis or even acknowledge her and the decision not to grant the Duchess HRH status became totemic issues for Edward, creating a rift in the Royal Family that was never repaired in his lifetime.

In the Afterword, the author observes that she found herself warming to Edward during the process of researching and writing the book. I’m afraid this reader had the opposite experience. If anything, Edward comes out diminished to my mind. His blind devotion to Wallis is touching but tainted by his seemingly single-minded belief that he should have whatever he wanted in life, regardless of the consequences. As the author observes, ‘His love for Wallis was as selfish and as crucial to his survival as a child’s; it would have been the more loving act to have relinquished her‘.

As for Wallis? I think the author sums it up when she comments, ‘She [Wallis] was powerful – in her effect on Edward – but powerless, in her inability to prevent events from spiralling out of control’.

I received a review copy courtesy of William Collins via NetGalley.

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In three words: Fascinating, detailed, intimate

Try something similarChanel’s Riviera: The Cote d’Azur in Peace and War, 1930 – 1944 by Anne de Courcy


About the Author

Anna Pasternak is an author, columnist and journalist. She writes regularly for Sunday Times Style, Conde Nast Traveller, Harper’s Bazaar, and others. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and daughter.

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6 thoughts on “#BookReview Untitled: The Real Wallis Simpson by Anna Pasternak

  1. This sounds fascinating. I read a Gill Paul novel where Wallis was portrayed quite differently to the way she had always been in the past and it was so interesting to consider that she had been deliberately made to look a certain way by the establishment. Great review, Cathy.

    Liked by 1 person

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