Apart from the occasional bursts of Mills & Boon style, various verbless sentences and the odd wild supposition, the other irritant in Untitled is, ironically, Pasternak’s random grasp of the correct use of British titles. One wonders how Lady Cunard would react to seeing herself described as “Lady Emerald Cunard”; Walter Monckton acquires his knighthood several months early, and Lord Louis Mountbatten becomes “Lord Mountbatten” a decade before he actually did. These things mattered to the people Pasternak has chosen to write about, and it suggests less of a grasp of their world than might be desired.
Pasternak makes a fair case in arguing how hard Wallis tried to give up Edward as his determination to marry her, even if it meant abdicating the throne, became apparent... However much Pasternak describes the couple’s devotion to one another (apart from Wallis’s fling with the ghastly American heir Jimmy Donahue in the 1950s), it is generally impossible to raise a bat squeak of sympathy for their plight when one reads of the 186 trunks and 80 further items of luggage they took on honeymoon with them.
What makes the book unputdownable is Pasternak’s lively and detailed (and thankfully not Mills & Boonsy) retelling of this ever-fascinating, ridiculously poignant love story. The happily married Simpsons met Edward in 1932 through their friend Thelma Furness, and they invited him to dinner at their mansion flat in Bryanston Court in London. Edward invited them back for a weekend at his house, Fort Belvedere, in Surrey.
Pasternak's attempt at promoting the Duchess of Windsor as a woman of depth also falls flat. Having followed her through dinner parties at the home she shared with Ernest, at the Duke's country retreat, Belvedere Fort, and later in the Bahamas, where Edward was governor, the most you could say was that she was a consummate hostess and the Duke such a besotted, needy man-child it's a wonder she could tolerate him at all.