10 February 2019

A Rainy Day to See the Queen

Paul Gallico
Doubleday, 1962
138 pages

This is quite simply a charming book, little more than a long short story, and readable all in one afternoon. Gallico, author of the Mrs. 'Arris novels, just has a way with story telling that is calm and gracious, as well as gentle with his characters. He's not sarcastic or mean or patronizing towards them.


"Coronation" is the tale of a working class family, the Claggs from northern England, and their day trip to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953. By family vote Will and Violet, their young children Gwendoline and Johnny, and Granny Bonner all agreed to forgo their annual two-week seaside holiday and spend the money on this once-in-a-lifetime event. And it cost 2 month's salary for Will!

Almost everything goes disastrously wrong during the long, rainy day in London. Each of the Claggs sees their fondest wish for the day collapse, while Granny, the crotchety pessimist, sees hers fulfilled. Of course this is a gentle story and towards the very end dreams are salvaged and good memories made.

I like the way Gallico paints his characters for us. We don't know everything about them but we do understand their viewpoints and longings on this day. And thus all their reactions to the troubles are believable and made me quite sad. Their attitude towards the new queen are also interesting for those of us across the pond. After a long war and the continuing days of rationing, she was hope and a new beginning.

Further Reading

My reviews of 2 of the 4 Mrs. 'Arris books by Paul Gallico:

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow

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