Book summary: The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and other stories

2006 BY ROSE TREMAIN

Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American woman for whom Edward Vlll abdicated in 1936, ended her life as the prisoner of her lawyer who would not allow anyone - friend, foe or journalist - to visit her in her Paris flat. Rose Tremain takes this true story and transforms it into an imaginative and ironic fiction. Her thesis is that Wallis, gaga and bed-ridden, has forgotten the king who gave up an empire for love of her.

The other stories in this magnificent collection range over a variety of themes, equally original and unexpected. An East German border guard, redundant after the Berlin Wall comes down in 1989, imagines that he might still have a purpose in life: he tries to reach Russia by bicycling across the hostile wastes of Poland. A jilted man gets his revenge. A baby grows wings. A character in an Impressionist painting escapes from his 'frame' - or does he? And there's a Christmas story set in a seedy hotel..

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