Review: That Woman by Anne Sebba

This extraordinary biography of the Duchess of Windsor allows readers to see beyond the woman who was vilified by the press during the Duke’s abdication of the throne in the 1930’s.

From the very beginning of her life, Wallis Simpson or the Duchess of Windsor as she became later known as she suffered hardships that truly began shortly after her father died until the end of her life.

A knowledge of what it was like to be short of money, made her keen to acquire not only as much as possible but to hold onto it for as long as possible. This was fear that seemed to develop over the years even when she became Duchess of Windsor and as a consequence made her at times slightly petty.


Surprisingly, the book contains many examples of times she tried to leave the Prince of Wales (as of course he was known when she was first introduced to him) in an attempt to go back to her second husband, who it is clear she had a lot of affection for.

But while the book has sympathy for her, it is also a well balanced and well written one that shows her flaws and attitudes towards people close to her  as she moved up the social circle.

On reading it, I was forced to change my own opinion of her – based on things that I had read during my history lessons and other sources show that unless we are all willing to go below the surface of a story then we will only believe the one we are told – so we should all question things more.

However, while it changed my opinion of Wallis slightly, I still didn’t fully understand her character but as Sebba suggests that is always going to be impossible to do.

There has clearly been a high level of research that has gone into the making of the book as the list of sources at the end shows and the detail shows in the quality of the writing. The book is interesting to read not only because it shows a different side to a woman who has been portrayed in a certain way for a long time but also because it brings to life a part of history that is rarely discussed any more.

If you like your biographies then I would recommend you give this one a read.

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