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That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
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That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

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3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  2,817 Ratings  ·  446 Reviews
Historian Anne Sebba has written the first full biography of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, by a woman which attempts to understand this fascinating and enigmatic American divorcee who nearly became Queen of England.
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published June 7th 2012 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published October 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Judith
Aug 15, 2012 Judith rated it did not like it
OMG! Was the editor drugged or just sleeping on the job. This has got to be the most boring biography I have ever read. It reminds me of getting stuck in a corner with a person at a party who keeps digressing from one boring story to the next and never making any point but just rambling on.

Worse, the author makes wild suppositions about Wallis' possible DSD or hermaphroditism while making it clear that there has never been any proof of either. She goes on to explain that "IF" these suppositions
...more
BonnieL
Mar 20, 2012 BonnieL rated it did not like it
Possibly the worst purported biography written about the Duchess of Windsor. It seems to have been written solely as an excuse for the author to beguile readers with groundless and unproven speculation that the Duchess MAY have suffered from DSD (Disorder of Sexual Development), MAY have been an hermaphrodite (or semi-hermaphrodite), APPEARED to be masculine and had very large hands and, now hold your breath here, a diarist of the day actually wrote that she looked masculine. In that case, we'd ...more
Simon
Apr 05, 2013 Simon rated it did not like it
Completely meretricious, and I mean completely. She does nothing at all with the new material, Wallis' continuing correspondence with Ernest Simpson until his death, and the reader is forced to endure what can only be described as the cesspool of the author's mind. The Duchess of Windsor wasn't the nicest woman in the world, but I have read biographies of Hitler that displayed more empathy for their subject. Sebba would undoubtedly claim that she is trying to understand the woman, but when you d ...more
Kate Lawrence
Apr 12, 2012 Kate Lawrence rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The story of Wallis Simpson and her relationship with Edward, the king who gave up his throne to marry her, continues to fascinate, 75 years after they were married. The author gives us the facts and the speculation, being careful to distinguish between them. Even after looking at all the documentation, including some new material, Sebba admits no one can "explain the inexplicable:" how a middle-aged woman who was not beautiful and who repeatedly humiliated Edward in front of their friends, was ...more
Geevee
Wallis Simpson - right woman, right place, right time?

Perhaps.

This highly readable and informative biography of Wallis Simpson by Anne Sebba suggests that had "That Woman" not come along and swept Edward, Prince of Wales of his feet Britain and its Empire may have ended up with a king who was unfit, uninterested and unable to fill the position that his brother so ably did.

Edward before he met Wallis was a royal with a film star following who connected with the people. He was also a playboy with
...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Oct 23, 2011 Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont rated it really liked it
Wallis Simpson was guilty of four things: she was a woman, she was a commoner, she was a double-divorcee and she was an American. But, notwithstanding all these handicaps, she still managed to storm the House of Windsor. She shook the fusty old English establishment and she got her man, even when the man happened to be a king! The surprise here is even greater because there was something manly about this femme fatale.

I’ll come to this in a bit but first a word or two about a wholly compelling i
...more
Jennifer
Oct 13, 2012 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, biography
I've always been interested to know more behind the story of Edward and Wallis. I heard on a podcast that Anne Sebba had access to some letters that were previously unreleased so I chose her book for my education.

The first third of the book focuses on Wallis' childhood and live before Edward. This section was all new information for me and I found it well paced and entertaining. Wallis' mother had many struggles which helped to shape Wallis' feelings towards money and security. However, Sebba m
...more
Jemidar
Mar 15, 2012 Jemidar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Very readable bio of Wallis Simpson and the first written by a woman. Whilst sympathetic, it's pretty much a warts and all look at the woman, her life and the impossible situation she found herself in.

The one thing that did strike me while reading this was how much hasn't changed over the years. The public's' general attitude and response to the women royal men choose as consorts either out of love or duty has remained pretty much the same. Earl's daughters are good (especially if they produce a
...more
Margit
Feb 13, 2012 Margit rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Normally, you'd write a new biography of somebody whose life has already been extensively scutinised by various predecessors when new material becomes avialable, or your own research has unearthed something hitherto unknown.
That's definitely not the case in this current biography of Wallis Simpson by Anne Sebba.She trundles her way through Wallis's life, without any psychological insight, new research or having talked to contemporaries.
She comes up with two startling opinions of her own, howeve
...more
Amy
Jul 01, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
Frankly, I was disappointed by this biography. If you have never read about Wallis Simpson before, this book may make a good-enough introduction. I've read about her all my life, though, and this book had no new information as well as a great deal of conjecture about hermaphrodism, substance abuse, and other un-verifiable claims the hungry press made about her during and after her life.

This bio had very odd pacing. About right for early years, then nearly half the book dealt with a sliver of ti
...more
False Millennium
May 09, 2013 False Millennium rated it it was ok
I only read this book, because I have read everything on the Dooch. There are some documents that have released since the publication of the last batch of books (some from the Queen Mother's correspondence,) but basically they don't reveal anything new: just reinforcements of what is known in terms of her Dominatrix personality with the Duke, her charm with men, her greed, the shallow life. I get tired of guesses about her sexuality or her possible skills picked up in some shoo shoo house in Sha ...more
Catherine
Mar 20, 2012 Catherine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I ignored the customer reviews and bought the book because although I was aware of Wallis Simpson, I didn’t know that much about her and thought her story would be interesting.

I only made it through a bit over half of the book before I gave up. I couldn’t read another sentence! The book suffers from poor editing, but even with a good editor I don’t know how you could turn Sebba’s self-indulgent writing into anything other than overly wordy conjectures. I kept losing my place, getting confused be
...more
Carol Best
Sep 02, 2014 Carol Best rated it it was ok
Mediocre book about a pair of vain, snobby people. The best thing that happened to England and the Commonwealth is that Edward left the throne for "the woman he loved". He would have made a lousy king. For that, we should be grateful to Wallis...otherwise, she is best forgotten.
Jennifer Steil
Jul 10, 2012 Jennifer Steil rated it liked it
This book was interesting to me, as I am currently living in London and need as many British history lessons as I can get. But I found the writing fairly pedestrian. Also, it was curious to me that the author says she feels Wallis has been unfairly portrayed as a horrid woman throughout history, so she wants to right this by granting her a fair portrayal. Yet one comes away from this book with a fairly black picture of Wallis. The author makes it pretty much impossible to like her. I also found ...more
Brittany Compton
Aug 01, 2013 Brittany Compton rated it did not like it
I'm not a biography writing expert, but wild conjecture and unsubstantiated speculation seem like no-nos to me. That's what most of the 120 pages I got through felt like, and then I just gave up. Sebba claims that Simpson was a hermaphrodite, and while this appears to be a popular rumor, she admits that there is no medical evidence to prove or disprove the possibility. Only the fact that she was childless, not very pretty, and sought power like a man were cited as "evidence" that this might have ...more
Margaret
Jun 26, 2012 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this, but I think it had more to do with the woman it was about then the book itself. Wallis Simpson led a fascinating life, regardless of what you think of her, and for an Anglophile like me, it's loads of fun getting all the juicy details. The book also covers her whole life, not just her marriage to the Duke of Windsor, and makes you seriously question how much of a "love story for the ages" their marriage really was. The Duke comes off quite badly, a petulant stalker who ...more
Cheryl
Aug 12, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
The story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor has long been promoted as one of the greatest love stories of all time. The world was stunned when, in 1936, Prince Edward--soon to become King Edward VIII --abdicated the throne of Great Britain in order to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American divorcee.
Author Anne Sebba's extensive research, including information from interviews and previously unpublished sources, sheds light on Wallis' life and her relationship with Edward. She attempts to an
...more
Margaret
Aug 12, 2014 Margaret rated it it was ok
I started this without any burning desire to know more about 'that woman', but quickly became involved in this account of someone whose life came to be defined by her marriage to King Edward VIII. Though I found her on the whole unpleasant - someone who made a career of avoiding a career, by seeking to marry money and status - I eventually came to have a little sympathy for her. It seems she was far from hell-bent on marrying the king. Rather she became unable to avoid it, and both she and her s ...more
Bryan
Sep 12, 2012 Bryan rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
Really how could I give this anything else? Wallis has been vilified? Sure. But considering her and the Duke of Windsor were two of the most evil people who ever lived maybe THEY deserved it? Or perhaps the fact this book was so poorly written I couldn't help but laugh. Maybe what really sealed the deal for me was the fact the author suggests Wallis was intersexed without providing any substantial evidence. Real classy.

Perhaps it deserves five stars because they really were the PERFECT COUPLE ev
...more
Rho
Aug 21, 2015 Rho rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
I am in a summer of reading about the royal family and the Wallis /Edward story. George VI and Elizabeth had a lot of work cleaning up the mess made by Edward. He was handsome, charming, self-absorbed, immature and vain with no sense of duty. There are many key questions that are brought up in this book but unfortunately, the author never provides real answers. Was Edward homosexual or bisexual? Did Wallis suffer from a chromosomal abnormality? Was she really attracted to homosexual men? Did she ...more
Denise
Aug 10, 2015 Denise rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Wallis Simpson, the American divorcée Edward VIII gave up his throne for while she was still married to husband number two, is certainly one of the most controversial figures of 20th century British history. Anne Sebba's biography paints an unusually sympathetic picture of a largely vilified woman, portraying her as a victim of circumstances in the way her life took rather than as a driving force behind them. However, Wallis's own words, frequently quoted throughout the book as befits a good bio ...more
Jules
I’ve never been precisely sure about how I feel about the British royal family. Of course, they benefit from my taxes but they also did away with many of their personal freedoms and general anonymity by their very birth right on entering this world. ‘Horses for courses’ – one might say in England.

I mention all this because, in essence, the life of Wallis (Warfield, Spencer, Simpson, WINDSOR) was locked away into royalty from her first involvement with Edward VIII. The exuberant American Wallis
...more
Fiona Caldarevic
May 06, 2012 Fiona Caldarevic rated it really liked it
Recommended to Fiona by: Robyn
The more I read the more I disliked Wallis Simpson. Anne Sebba painted her as a woman only interested in two things - money and social status. For this she snared the King, and wasn't she lucky to find a King who was at her beck and call, and who gave it all up for her. (Although he seemed to have an awful lot of trouble actually giving it all up post-abdication; what a pain he was!).

I'm not sure if Wallis actually loved David. There was nothing in the book showing that she did, other than she s
...more
Sidna
Nov 04, 2012 Sidna rated it liked it
Another book for a book discussion that I probably would never have chosen to read on my own. Mrs. Simpson and the Duke were both strange characters who deserved each other. Edward apparently was popular in England for the few months he was King, but he didn't seem to have much vision for long-term solutions for the probelms his country faced. It seems that England was probably better off with his brother, followed by Queen Elizabeth.

The book was o.k. and Sebba is a good writer, but I always won
...more
Katie
Feb 27, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I have wanted to read a book about Wallis Simpson for quite some time so I picked this book up after watching the documentary during a trip to England. While a really enjoying read I found it difficult to accept some of the conjectures that Anne Sebba has made since there is no real evidence that backs them up except for remarks made by others who were not always fans of the couple.

The new evidence that drove this book to be published were letters that were discovered stating that Wallis Simpso
...more
Mary Anne
Jul 30, 2012 Mary Anne rated it did not like it
Gah -- if this weren't a book club book, I would totally quit on this.

I really dislike retroactive, speculative pseudo-diagnoses of historical figure (i.e., I think the whole reason this person was the way they were was because they really had XXXX syndrome).

In this case, the author is positing that Simpson had a type of hermaphroditism, but without any actual evidence, other than one modern doctor looking at photos and speculating, along with some really broad general behavioral attributes that
...more
Jillian
Jul 20, 2012 Jillian rated it really liked it
I was totally entertained by this but at the end all I thought was, "Be careful what you wish for." I blame this on the fact that it's now 12:45 A.M. Instead of poorly repeating what another has written, I copied and pasted it. This sums up my thoughts as well-------

"I thoroughly enjoyed this, but I think it had more to do with the woman it was about then the book itself. Wallis Simpson led a fascinating life, regardless of what you think of her, and for an Anglophile like me, it's loads of fun
...more
Melissa
Jun 11, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
I would give this book five stars, if not for the fact that the prose is exceedingly dry. Wallis Simpson and the former King Edward VIII have interested me for some time, ever since I saw The King's Speech last year. I'd a rudamentary knowledge about the couple from reading history books, but there was something about them that made me want to know more.

Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson Windsor is typically portrayed as a villaness, since she was the one who made Edward VIII give up the throne. An
...more
Alecia
Mar 30, 2012 Alecia rated it liked it
Because this is such an enduring love story/tragedy, this biography is pretty good just by virtue of it's subject matter. I agree with some of the reviewers that the author brings up some issues with no proof to back her theories up. She bandies around various rumours such as the one that the Duchess (Wallis Simpson) had a sexual disorder, and was possibly a hermaphrodite. She also perpetuates the story I have heard before that Wallis learned some exotic sexual techniques in China, and that is p ...more
Elizabeth
Apr 07, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Readable and well-written bio of Wallis Simpson that concentrates on the early years and glosses over the last twenty years or so of her life. For the most part meticulously researched and avoids the gossipy quality of royal biographies with the one glaring exception of Sebba's grotesque speculation that Simpson suffered from a genetic disorder along the lines of intersexuality, testicular feminization or "hermaphroditism." And this is really the rankest sort of speculation, based on no more tha ...more
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Anne Sebba began her writing career at the BBC world service, Arabic section, while still a student. After graduating from King’s College, London in Modern European History, she worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in London and Rome, the first woman Reuters accepted on their Graduate Trainee Scheme. In 1975 she moved to New York with her husband and first baby returning two years later w ...more
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