“London, 1926. Two baby girls are born just hours and miles apart. One you know as the Queen of England, but what of the other girl- the daughter of an undertaker named in her honour?”
First things first, I don’t think this is my normal kind of book as I am much more in the YA Fantasy camp (think Cassandra Clare and Sarah J Maas) but there was something about this book when I saw it on NetGalley that appealed to me. And I think that something was the idea of a parallel life with the Queen.
Betsy Sunshine (love the name) is the daughter of an undertaker born on the same day as the future Queen of England, Elizabeth II, and this is her story. Like The Queen she is born in 1926 and has a younger sister called Marge who is very easily the Princess Margaret character is this story. Through Betsy, Sophie Duffy takes us on a journey through modern day Britain as a whistle stop tour of growing up during the blitz, the aftermath of the war, the IRA, the Thatcher Years, the death of Princess Diana and other important historical events. At times I found the character of Betsy Sunshine to be a little hard to warm to but in the same way she always felt much more ‘flesh and blood’ than other characters that I have read, and I think this is largely to do with how human she is- we see her make decisions and we know her reasoning behind such decisions, and they seem so right at the time. Then we see how these decisions have affected her life and the lives of those around her in the present day chapters.
Truthfully, I was expecting more about the Queen in this story, maybe one chapter from the Queen detailing her day to day issues and then a chapter from Betsy dealing with her day to day issues of running a business and a home and seeing how different and the same they are. But alas the Queen actually only makes three appearances – and you will have to see if you are more awake than I was, as I almost missed her ‘third’ appearance.
What I was not expecting was so much about death, but then in a book about the daughter of an undertaker really what was I thinking?? I wholeheartedly applaud Duffy for writing about death in a way that is not too maudlin and that it actually is part of life, even though the whole way through I was thinking ‘please don’t let the Queen or Betsy die at the end’.
In summary – would I recommend this book? Yes, if you are into family saga and historical fiction, then this is the book for you.