The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain - review by Pamela Norris

Pamela Norris

Dreams and Loneliness

The Darkness of Wallis Simpson


Chatto & Windus 215pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In 1980, the writer Caroline Blackwood was commissioned by the Sunday Times to write an article on the Duchess of Windsor to accompany a photo-session with the Duchess by Lord Snowdon. The distinguished photographer never got his pictures, but the story Blackwood uncovered was as sensational and bizarre as any of the myths which embellish the history of the infamous Wallis Simpson. Bedridden and ageing, the Duchess was sequestered behind the tightly sealed windows of her Paris chateau, jealously guarded by her formidable lawyer, Maître Suzanne Blum. Rumour whispered that the Duchess was gaga, that she rarely spoke, that her body had shrivelled to the size of a child’s, that she had turned black all over and that her once substantial hands had shrunk to tiny marmoset paws. 

Blackwood’s account of her unsuccessful attempt to gain access to the divorcee who stole the heart of the King of England (a seduction which gossip attributed to Wallis’s mastery of the erotic ‘Chinese Grip’ picked up on a trip to Peking) made riveting reading. Acknowledging the larger-than-life element in her

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