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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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