The Autobiography of the Queen, By Emma Tennant

Here's a world in which our gracious monarch, sick to death of her public and private duties, ups stumps and heads for St Lucia, incognito. How on earth could the Queen even hope to do that? It is one of many unanswered questions in this engaging but unenlightening tale. It works well enough as a fable but less well as a novel, as something where thoughts and motives are properly investigated.

Arriving in St Lucia, the Queen strikes up a friendship with Austin Ford, St Lucia's own Zorba the Greek, all-round fixer and furnisher of pleasures. This almost-romance is portrayed with a great deal of charm, and the style is brisk and engaging.

It's a shame that the author feels obliged to present the Queen's slow dwindling to down-at-heel battiness as something amusing, and it is a little odd that an "autobiography" should be written in the third person. It might be that Tennant feared that to use the first person would represent unforgivable lèse majesté, but given the book's trajectory, I rather doubt it.