A Novel


“Goodness, Abdication really is good. I’m in awe of Juliet’s ability” (Jessica Fellowes, New York Times bestselling author of The World of Downton Abbey).

England, 1936.

A beloved king is dead, and by year’s end, the charismatic new monarch will give up his throne for love. The world is on the brink of war. And in the tumultuous intervening months, three outsiders will find themselves embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies, and covert complicities of a glittering high society in the throes of upheaval.

After a long journey from her home in Barbados, May Thomas secures a position as a secretary and driver and opens her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach. Outwardly affable American spinster Evangeline Nettlefold finds her place in the uppermost social circles, but her growing resentment toward her childhood friend Wallis Simpson predicts disaster. A friendship catapults Julian Richardson from his mother’s middle-class parlor to luxurious dinners with the king, yet he cannot forget those who struggle outside the gilded gates, nor his uneasy affection for May.

As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, renowned historian Juliet Nicolson’s debut novel is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when order and chaos battled for supremacy.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451658842 | 
  • May 2012
List Price $12.99 (price may vary by retailer)

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Abdication includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Abdication takes place in a Britain broken from World War I, struggling from the subsequent crippling depression, and fearful at the possibility of renewed international conflict. At a time when the country desperately needed a leader, the new King, Edward VIII rejected his inherited position as head of state, threatening to leave his country in limbo. Juliet Nicolson plunges headfirst into 1936—a year defined by secrets and suspicions that resulted in Edward’s abdication of the throne to marry his American lover, Wallis Simpson. 

Told from the perspective of those on the sidelines of a love affair that shocked the world—Wallis’s old childhood spinster friend, Evangeline Nettlefold; May Thomas, a young female chauffeur to Sir Philip Blunt; and Julian Richardson, an Oxford undergraduate and friend to Rupert Blunt—Abdication captures the tangled web of romance, loyalty, passion, and duty that defined a country.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1.  Abdication adheres close see more

About the Author

Juliet Nicolson
Photograph by Axel Hesslenberg

Juliet Nicolson

Juliet Nicolson is the author of The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm and The Great Silence: Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in Sussex, England.