‘The Darkness of Wallis Simpson’ by Rose Tremain

Walter Benjamin says that short stories are stronger than the real, lived moment, because they can go on releasing the real, lived moment long after the real, lived moment is dead. (Smith, says: I’m sure Benjamin didn’t put it quite like that.)
 
When I was planning this anthology, I had a Rose Tremain story in my head about Nancy Reagan caring for Ronald after Alzheimer’s got the better of him. I remembered it for its audacity and its astonishing empathy. But I searched and searched and when I finally tracked down ‘The Former First Lady and the Football Hero’, I found it is in fact another A.M. Homes story from Things You Should Know.  Which I should have known.
 
What I did know, but had forgotten, was that ‘The Darkness of Wallis Simpson’ is an equally audacious trip inside the mind of the dying Duchess of Windsor. The story for which the Duchess is known is not her story; the woman for whom Edward VIII gave up an empire has forgotten he ever lived.
 
It’s a brilliant, queasy read. But, in my fantasy anthology there’s a story that lives on past the real, lived moment, a story by Rose Tremain about Ronald and Nancy Reagan…

In The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and other stories, Vintage, 2006

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