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The Real Wallis Simpson: A New History of the American Divorcée Who Became the Duchess of Windsor

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  772 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Wallis Simpson is known as the woman at the center of the most scandalous love affair of the 20th century, but in this “unputdownable…lively and detailed” (The Times) biography, discover a woman wronged by history with new information revealed by the latest research and those who were close to the couple.

The story that has been told repeatedly is this: The handsome, chari
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Atria Books
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The story of Wallis Simpson's infamous affair with the Prince of Wales in the 1930s that led to Edward VIII abdicating the throne after only 326 days as King of England has been told again and again. Simpson has been portrayed as everything from a gold digger to a whore to even a Nazi spy. Wallis Simpson was not a saint...she was a twice divorced American and an independent woman with a strong personality in a time where that was not fashionable. In The Real Wallis Simpson, Anna Pasternak strive ...more
This biography of Wallis Simpson, by Anna Pasternak, states openly that the aim of the book is to present Simpson’s side of the story, her view of her life with King Edward VIII, the English monarch who abdicated to marry her. She has been slandered by history, labeled as that wicked, brazen, self-serving two-time American divorcee, the gold-digger who forced Edward in 1936 to abdicate and leave England just for her. Did she force him to do this or was it his choice?

In that we are given her vers
Tammy Buchli
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A couple of months ago I listened to a great History Chicks podcast about Wallis Simpson that really piqued my interest, although I’ve always been on Team George VI, myself. One of the History Chicks’ great strengths is that — although always very thorough — they are never catty about their subjects, always sympathetic and empathetic. So, when NetGalley offered me an opportunity to read an ARC copy and review this bio, I was very eager to do so. The first thing to know about this book is that it ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
I'm surprised that this book has good reviews. I found it to be incredibly biased in Wallis' and Edward's favor. So much so that the author skims over the fact that they were Nazi sympathizers and actually made a personal visit to Hitler. The worst she can say is that it was a stupid thing to do. You think??? In fact, Edward actually encouraged the Germans to engage in relentless bombing attacks on Britain, according to the Marburg Files. Pasternak does her best to gloss over this.

Pastnernak pr
Farce or Tragedy?

Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson. Either a Shakespearean farce or a tragedy from beginning to end.
I have always held some skepticism and admittedly a few prejudices towards Wallis and Edward and their so called fairytale romance. The man who gave up his kingship for the woman he loved.
Pasternak paints a different picture from what I was used to and I must admit to being touched, particularly at Wallis' last days and the pettiness of the court in not letting her be referred to a
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Pasternak is willing to strip a gear in her desire to show the Duchess of Windsor in the best possible light. It is certainly true that Mrs. Simpson did not imagine the outcome of her affair with the Prince of Wales, and that on one level she suffered because of it. On another? Well, she was happily married at the time the Prince moved on her. Or she moved on him. And that's the rub. Wallis isn't a naif at almost any point in her pre-David life, and a careful reading of her correspondence can't ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
A very intense effort to whitewash and "redeem" the reputations of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor - the author displays a amazing ability to disregard contemporaneous writings, diaries, letters and other historical materials as she tries to portray Wallis as a victim and the Duke as a misunderstood royal - doesn't work. There is a wealth of extant material about how they were strong Nazi sympathizers; how the Duke wanted Hitler to bomb Britain into submission because he believed the country was ...more
Jun 22, 2019 rated it did not like it

This book is a light, fast read. Mostly because it provides no new information and completely ignores information that would challenge Pasternak's positive bias towards the Windsors.
There is also a strong sexist current throughout the book. Portraying Wallis as a "victim" who was "entrapped" into marriage is sexist. She was a victim of her own choices, nothing else. She happily had an affair with the boring little Prince when he was rich and powerful but cried "pity poor me" when she had run of
Mercini Lazaridis
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Well researched and written but from a totally biased viewpoint. The evidence included here portrays a certain image of the couple and the author has completely neglected a plethora of evidence which we know exists supporting a completely different view of what these two were really like.

I enjoyed reading it but at the same time I didn’t buy in to it.

There was so much more to this story.

Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was touted as different, based on new research, etc., etc. Boy was that misleading.

I've read many a book on Mrs. Simpson, and thought this may bring new insight into this polarizing woman. Nope. Most of what is in here has been told before, and the few new positive tidbits I learned about her were negated by her actions soon afterwards.

Simply put, the author has the gall to suggest this woman was a victim. Give me a break. She knew what she was doing from the get-go. She chose, as a ma
Sara G
This book unintentionally makes an amazing argument for the abolition of hereditary monarchies. David, Prince of Wales, was a charming and handsome young man with no substance and no ability to think things through. As King Edward VIII, he was even worse - but as the abdicated Duke of Windsor, with no royal political advisors and no support other than from his wife, it all went to hell. I know this book is about Wallis and I enjoyed reading about her, but I kept mentally going back to the fact t ...more
Apr 28, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Almost absurdly fawning. An attempted redemption narrative for Wallis, except the author skims over her formative years so quickly we have no notion of any profundities of her character, and are only told repeatedly that she was well-mannered and charming. Sure, no one really questions that - she wasn't a sneering villain. (And Diana Mosley popping up frequently in commentary as some sort of impartial observer! Which reminds me, for the sake of Mitford completionism I need to read her memoir and ...more
Anna Machan
Jan 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
Too simpering. Portrays Wallis as a victimized angel who never did anything wrong and was just dragged around by others.
Linda Lipko
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
After reading many books that shed a terribly dark portrait of Wallis Simpson, it was refreshing to read something that painted a realistic portrait.

Over the years, it seemed necessary to portray Wallis as a money grabbing, selfish, ugly (manish looking) woman.
The rumors abound about her sexuality. Some state she was unable to have a sexual relationship. Other books state she was a dominatrix who loved to whip and demean Edward.

I enjoyed this book because, finally, there is a realistic depiction
Karen Nelson
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Royals. Love them. I seriously believe it's my 82% Brit roots, according to Ancestory DNA. I continue to love the comings and goings of all of them, and respect their ability to help bring good to things that may not have gotten attention. 

That said, I am obsessed with Wallis Simpson. I have read everything I can on the woman who was hated by Americans and Brits alike. She has been described as a "wanton woman", a "hussy", and a gold digger.  This book continues to dig into the real Wallis Simps
Anna Pasternak nails her colours pretty unashamedly to the mast when she talks about the book being fuelled by a desire to rehabilitate Wallis in history. Untitled paints the Duchess of Windsor in a positive light, putting forward her side of the story and attempting to quash some, if not all, of the accusations that have been levelled at her. The list of sources and references at the back of the book demonstrate the detailed research undertaken by the author.

I was surprised to learn of the extr
Sue Quittkat
Sep 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
this is a book that will hit the wall very soon and drop into the giveaway box. I cannot believe that all the people interviewed in the other books about the bitch Wallis, were lying and only those that once wanted to eat at her table are now interviewed. No mention of the Nazi connection, no mention of the horde of medical specialists she saw in the US of A, no mention of her berating and telling Edward to shut up---just a person who was in a situation out of her depth. Not a recommendation in ...more
Stacie (MagicOfBooks)
I will also do a video review her at my channel:

"The Real Wallis Simpson" is a work of nonfiction by Anna Pasternak who seeks to tell the real story of Wallis Simpson who has often been vilified and blamed for the abdication of King Edward VIII.

I've had an interest in Wallis Simpson for a number of years, but I never knew much about her, other than the fact that many tend to dislike her. She has been vilified by history as a schemer who purposely forced the ab
Kate Lawrence
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
When one of my book clubs chose to read "any book about Wallis Simpson" I recalled I had read "That Woman" by Anne Sebba several years ago and thought that would be sufficient. But then I noticed on the library's new book shelves Anna Pasternak's biography, just published last month. I was drawn in to read it because it promised to take a different, more sympathetic approach to Wallis and the abdication crisis: Pasternak views her as the victim of the abdication, not the villain.

We can certainl
Sep 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor has been told many many times and protrayed in a lot of different ways. This variation clearly supports the thought that Wallis Simpson simply got herself into a situation that snowballed beyond her expectations... she wasn't expecting Edward to marry her or give up the crown and all the stories about their Nazi Ties were untrue for example. I believe there are three sides to everystory and this is clearly an interesting version.... my take on ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written reappraisal of the life of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor. Things I've learned: 1) Wallis never wanted the King to abdicate, 2) Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the rest of the royals were absolutely horrible to Wallis, 3) David as King was disliked by the PM Stanley Baldwin, who basically used Wallis as an excuse to get rid of David, and 4) Wallis was most likely a much nicer person than she was ever given credit for. Was she a saint? No. Was she a Nazi? Also no. It's hard to believe now ...more
Sally Boocock
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Reading a book about a woman who has been vilified all her life is quite hard going but Anna Pasternak manages to tell Wallis's story in an amazing moving way. Told through letters and information from people who knew both the Duke of Windsor and Wallis it makes for fascinating but extremely sad reading. Their love was obviously very strong in order to withstand the unkind behaviour from a lot of the other royal family. For anyone who is interested in the royal family over the last 80years . ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I truly had high hopes for this version of Wallis Simpson, so i jumped right in, to a sloshing mudhole! Kept slugging along tho. Until i decided to just get thru a chapter a day, and switch out books. THAT should have been warning enough, but the flares did not go off till i found myself dreading the sight of this book in my nightstand rotation pile.
Granted i too held the manufactured, world-wide held opinion about the divorced whore who wanted the crown. So in that way the book did a good job
Joan Foss
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author failed to sway me towards the "Duchess". It is a sad, sad story. Two pathetic people that expected too much, wanted too many baubles, and continued to whine whine about how unfair it all was. I don't agree with the author that Wallis never wanted to marry. She was the instigator of "ways" to get married and keep him King. Did I like either of them..... NO. They remind me today of so many spoiled rich Hollywood personalities. Excess in abundance. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was ok
Not my kind of people to read about. Each person had too many relationships with people they weren’t married to & then wonder why their lives never turned out. It’s no wonder Wallis and her defunct King were not welcome back to England.
Oct 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and well researched but overly persuaded of Wallis' majesty and innocence of all charges.
Sep 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This was absolutely fascinating. I’ve always been more of a King George VI fan - I think that both Wallis and David suck and weren’t great people. That being said, WOW they went through all that they went through, and were married for four decades. People are crazy in love, I guess.

I actually thought it was a bit too long and could have used some editing but I really enjoyed this biography overall, and I learned a lot, especially about her early childhood and life pre-David. I apprec
Teri Reck
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Incredible book about one of the most reviled women in modern history. This poor woman had no idea of the web into which she had wandered--nor could she find any way out. My goodness, the sadness, the stupidity, the vindictiveness of the Royal family and the powers that be in Great Britain at the time. Honestly, I think that perhaps the better person to be King during that time actually ended up being so, but wow, the price that this woman paid for it. Also, I expected truly to detest the abdica ...more
Heather Green
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ever since I watched “The Woman He Loved” with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour (and the fact I’m a History teacher), I’ve been fascinated with the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

I enjoyed learning more about this story and the book used a lot of sources from those who were there-interviews, letters, written records, but at the start, the author makes it clear she’s all for Wallis Simpson (and mentions it at the end). It just makes me wonder how much is accurate. But then again, I thin
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
When I first discovered this book I was pleased to learn that it wasn't going to be another retelling of what a terrible, vindictive woman the Duchess of Windsor really was; but instead an attempt, as the author put it, "to bring Wallis Simpson favorably back in the eyes of the world (p. 287)".

While I don't see detractors changing their opinions by reading this book; and although there is little that is new to discover between the pages, it could make for an enjoyable (sympathetic, yet still ab
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Anna Pasternak is an author, columnist, and journalist. She writes regularly for Sunday Times Style, Condé Nast Traveler, Harper’s Bazaar, and others. She lives in Oxfordshire, England, with her husband and daughter.

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