Review: Emerald by Elisabeth Luard

Emerald by Elisabeth Luard

Akadine Press (September 2000)

573 pages

978-1888173628

What if the Duke of Windsor and Mrs. Simpson produced an illegitimate child? What would this child’s life have been like?

Emerald is the fictional account that answers these questions. As a child of this particular union, Emerald would have to be a strong, tough soul, and this is how she is portrayed: tough, yet sensitive, handling events thrown at her by invisible forces with strength and dignity, trying to control the tumultuous, unpredictable world swirling around her as best she could. Her parents, on the other hand are not illustrated in quite so flattering a light: Mrs. Simpson, avaricious, cold, and calculating; the Duke (of course the ex-King Edward VIII), weak-willed, helpless, and pitiable for being entangled in this woman’s snares. The characterizations were emotionally provocative: full-bodied, three-dimensional fictional and nonfictional creations, each having his or her own strengths and weaknesses and all boasting reasons for their actions. Even the most disagreeable of characters were understandable.

Emerald’s tale is beautifully told, engrossing, and–on occasion–heart-wrenchingly sad. The story twists and turns boldly with a deliciously unpredictable plot. The author displayed a wealth of knowledge, obviously based on meticulous research, writing convincingly about everything from details of the lives of the English aristocracy and how they hid their secrets, to clandestine operations during WW2,  different facets of Mexican culture, high-fashion society in Paris, the perfume and cosmetics industry, life on the Hebrides Islands, to insect biology. Truly astounding! And even better…the research neither overwhelmed nor undermined the strength of the story, rather it subtly enhanced the plot.

Two functional features  enhanced my reading pleasure as well. First, the book was divided into short chapters of five to ten pages, which I found easier to tackle than long chapters. Even though the events or just ruminations, of one day were split into several chapters, each chapter encompassed a complete thought or a singular event, which in turn led to the next, related, thought or event. Second, the straightforward yet engaging style of writing kept me turning the pages.

My single niggling criticism is that I was left musing over some missing explanations after I finished the book. Why didn’t the royal couple want their daughter back? Why was Anstruther so insistent that Callum and Emerald be permanently separated? Why did he do everything in his power to keep them apart? Why did he control her life anonymously, covertly setting up her marriage to the flagrantly homosexual Tom, for example?

Despite a few unanswered questions, I have only this to say about Emerald: What a story!!! Read it!!! Now!!!

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2 responses

  1. I once was the butler of a dear uncle of mine, Daniel Sylvester, who gave me this book, Emerald, by Elisabeth Luard. How can I obtaina copy in South Africa.
    Greetings,
    Edward

    • Dear Edward,
      I ordered this book many years ago from a catalog that has now gone out of business, A Common Reader. It is not in print any longer, as far as I know. A wonderful source of books with worldwide free shipping is The Book Depository.com, but I just checked and they do not have it in stock themselves; they refer the reader to abebooks, a used books site. However, the shipping may be expensive. I wish I could be of more help.

      What a fascinating story you must have to tell about life as a butler! If you ever write a book yourself, I would be interested!

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