The Governess by Wendy Holden

The minute I heard about this book I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. As a lifelong royalist I enjoy anything relating to the Royal Family and this fictionalised account of the life of Marion Crawford, who for 17 years was governess to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, fascinated me from the start.

It’s rather a sad story. I suppose it’s inevitable that nannies and governesses will be outgrown by their charges and that is what happened to Marion. After being indispensable for many years, suddenly she found that she was cast aside. She then made a terrible error of judgement by agreeing to write about her time with her royal charges.

Wendy Holden’s retelling is sympathetic towards Marion, rightly so in my opinion. She sacrificed her best years for the princesses. It wasn’t just a job, it was her life. The author also beautifully turns fact into an appealing story, plumping out characters and events to make this an utterly engrossing novel. It’s absolutely clear, however, that she has done a huge amount of research. As a royalist I know a reasonable amount of facts but this book is chock full of detail, expertly and intricately woven into the fabric of the story. Did you, for instance, know that Buckingham Palace had its own postman amongst its 400 employees in the 1930s. I was agog at times.

This book took me longer than I expected to read, not because I didn’t like it or because it was dull, far from it. I wanted to savour every word and fully immerse myself in the royal world, which is as far removed from normal life as you could imagine. Holden has written something so incredibly special with The Governess and I was thrilled to learn in the acknowledgements that she’s now writing a novel about Wallis Simpson. I can’t wait for that!

What a treat reading this book has been. I have loved every second of it. It’s right up my street but will appeal to any fans of 20th century historical fiction.

Welbeck Publishing Group 20 Aug. 2020
ISBN: 978-1787394667

Review by Nicola Smith at Short Book and Scribes