|The Windsor Faction|
As I read this book, I was strongly reminded of Lord Darlington's similar efforts in Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. In that book, too, "amateur diplomats" with too little information about the actual situation in Europe try to stop war from completely breaking out. Most of The Windsor Faction takes place after September 1939, so if you know your history you already know that it's too late even in this alternate timeline because Germany has already taken the Sudetenland and invaded Poland.
The novel is narrated in turns by Cynthia Kirkpatrick, the daughter of returned ex-patriots from Ceylon (later Sri Lanka); Beverly Nichols, a writer; Rodney, an unfortunate bagman; and, sometimes, King Edward himself. None of them instigated the plot, but they all get caught up in it. For the first half, things move slowly as characters put other characters into position and the news from Europe worsens. In fact, there's a distinct sense of ennui from many of the characters as they try to keep their upper lips stiff. I started to wonder if that was all there was to this book, just subtext buried so deeply that only a Freudian psychoanalyst could dig it up. But the last third of the story changes everything from a tale of keeping calm and carrying on into a pretty good thriller. The ending is wonderful.
It's strange to read an alternate history that hews so closely actual history. I'm still a little puzzled about what to make of it. Why did the author choose to alter history? The story would have been believable without the premise.