I'm giving this tale five stars because I don't think anyone could have written it any better, but every time I read one of Sue Townsend's books I find myself saddened by the society she is reflecting. So while there are many comic and satirically amusing moments, I also find it tragic.
For instance, the Royal Family has been locked in a low-end-of-society Exclusion zone run as a private enterprise, for thirteen years. And during that time Prince Philip has had a stroke and now lies in a care home almost forgotten. The Queen goes to visit daily but the nurses are absent, not paid well enough to risk their backs lifting him to change the sheets, or too rushed and understaffed. So when the Queen and her family are confined to house arrest, Philip ends up with no care apart from a man in a wheelchair who can't get near enough to the bed to give him food. This isn't funny, it's a look at what is happening in some care home somewhere today.
You don't need to have read the previous book in which the royalty was dethroned, but it does come as something of a shock if you haven't, to see that William is cheerfully working on scaffolding and Harry is hanging out with hoodies and Anne has married someone with no breeding but a chin, while Charles and Camilla keep each other happy and grow turnips and talk to the dogs. A health and safety officer called Graham claims to be the product of a young love affair between Charles and Camilla, and the rules on succession having changed, he would now stand ahead of William in line to inherit, if there was a crown to inherit that is.
There is a Big Brother style surveillance situation and an all-pervasive computer called Vulcan which knows what you bought last and what music you like, but occasionally puts two million pounds in someone's bank account by mistake or sends death certs to all the pensioners. The Prime Minister decides to ban stepladders and dogs, which gets all the dogs, which we see talking to one another, very worried indeed.
As I say there is a lot that's funny, and I'm delighted that Townsend is able to write in this fashion without being jailed as in some other countries, but there is also a lot in this book that is very sad indeed.