Two Weeks with the Queen
|Original title||Two Weeks In London|
|Cover artist||Moira Millman|
|Genre||Young Adult / drama|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Two Weeks with the Queen is a 1990 novel by Australian author Morris Gleitzman. It focuses on an boy named Colin Mudford, who is sent to live with relatives in England, while his brother is being treated for cancer.
Colin Mudford, a 12-year-old Australian, is sent to stay with his uncle and his aunt who live in London, while his brother is being treated for cancer. In England, Colin decides to meet the Queen by trying to sneak into Buckingham Palace, because he wants to ask her for good doctors. Colin was caught by the police for trying to do that. He also tried to sneak into the best cancer hospital in London, and was again, kicked out.
Outside the hospital, he meets a Welshman named Ted who claims that his friend is also suffering from cancer. Ted offers to introduce Colin to one of England's leading cancer experts. The expert contacts Luke's doctors in Sydney and confirms that the cancer which Luke has is terminal. He then slashes tyres on Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Audi cars, to get revenge on the doctors. Colin storms back to his aunt's house distraught, on where Alistair gives Colin the idea that a possible cure may be found in South America.
Colin convinces Alistair to stow away with him on a cargo ship to South America the next day. However, when Colin admits that he slashed the tires of several doctors' cars and that Ted caught him, Alistair tells Colin that Ted could be blamed for this, so Colin delays their trip to South America and visits Ted the next day.
Colin visits Ted at his home and finds that he has been badly injured. Ted tells him that he was attacked by people in the street who disliked him, because he is homosexual. He then confesses to Colin that his friend who dying of cancer is actually his lover, Griff, who is dying of AIDS. Ted is unable to walk, so Colin promises to visit Griff for him. Colin goes to the hospital and meets Griff, bringing him a letter from Ted as well as Griff's favourite food, tangerines. After enjoying an conversation with Colin, Griff requests that he come to visit him again.
After Griff is taken back to his ward by an nurse, Colin finds a spare wheelchair in the hospital which he takes back to Ted's house. Colin then takes Ted to the hospital to see Griff using the wheelchair and the couple thank Colin greatly for reuniting them. Several days later, after Ted has recovered, Colin goes to visit the couple in the hospital, but upon arrival he learns that Griff has died.
When Colin arrives home, Aunt Iris tells Colin that she found out everything from Alistair. They are both punished by receiving only cold baked beans for dinner, and the house is fortified against any escape attempts. Colin abandons his plans for traveling to South America and decides to accept Luke's fate. He asks Aunt Iris to let him go back to his family, but she forbids it. She tells him any attempt to escape will not help either, because they will not allow him on the plane with his return ticket, unless he is seen off by an adult guardian.
The next morning, with much difficulty, Colin sneaks out of the house and meets Ted at the airport. Ted signs Colin's forms and they say their goodbyes and Ted leaves. Aunt Iris catches Colin trying to escape and conflict is created, Alistair has a rant, but Aunt Iris eventually sees reason and lets him go. They see him off, and Colin travels back to Sydney to see Luke. The story ends as Luke wakes up, happy to see Colin.
Colin Mudford: A 12-year-old Australian boy determined to convince a cancer expert to treat his younger brother.
Luke Mudford: The brother of Colin who is suffering from terminal cancer, he is in the whole story in Sydney, where he will be treated for the cancer and he is eight years old.
Alistair: Colin's shy English cousin. While Colin is in London, Alistair becomes involved with Colin's ambitious schemes to find a cure for Luke's cancer.
Aunty Iris: Colin's aunt and Alistair's overbearing mother. She is friendly towards Colin but is frightened by the fact that he is so open about Luke's cancer.
The Queen: The Queen is least bothered about Colin's destiny and doesn't respond to any of Colin's letters and requests; but requests her liaison officer to write a letter to him near the end of the book
Uncle Bob: Uncle Bob is Colin's grumpy Uncle. He has very strong thoughts about the Royal family and the city of london. He often joins in with his wife in telling their son, Alistair, what to do.
Ted: a homosexual who is Welsh and listens to Colin's thoughts about Luke as he has a similar issue.
Griff: Ted's partner who has AIDS and cancer that occurred because of the AIDS, his favourite food is tangerines.
Two Weeks with the Queen was published during a time of change in Australia, particularly economic and political change. When Treasurer Paul Keating announced the recession on 29 November – the economic struggles of average families are described in the early chapters of the book, such as when Colin's parents cannot afford to buy him a Christmas gift that he wants, and instead give him something that he needs – sensible school shoes, which go unappreciated.
AIDS was a growing concern in Australia. Two Weeks with the Queen was published only three years after the prominent "Grim Reaper" public service announcements, and is considered significant in addressing the issue of AIDS. Although the novel presents a homosexual man with a partner dying of the disease, it humanises Ted and presents his plight as very real, significant, and similar to Colin's struggle with his brother's illness.
In July 1989, the first hospital for AIDS sufferers was opened by Princess Diana – her hands-on approach contrasting vastly with the absence of the Queen in the text.
There are several themes explored throughout the story. Central to the plot is the importance of hope, determination, and steadfastness during periods of great adversity. In the book, Colin is absolutely determined to help his brother by finding a cure for his cancer, despite being on nearly the opposite side of the world without any realistic means of helping at all. Acceptance of the inevitable and the value of spending time with loved ones are also prominent themes as Colin views the relationship between Ted and the dying Griff, realizing that Luke, too, is fated to die and therefore the right choice is to accept fate and cherish Luke's remaining time.
Colin's determination to save his brother leads to some humorous incidents as he attempts to invade Buckingham Palace and seeks out a well-known doctor at the "Best Cancer Hospital." Meanwhile, Colin's relationship with a young man dealing with his lover's AIDS exemplifies the book's earnest honesty while also introducing some humorous moments.
More seriously, Gleitzman depicts the denial and anger that accompany grief, portraying Colin's egocentricity, spunk, and pain compassionately and without condescension. Neatly tied together by the incidents involving the Queen, this mixture of genuine emotion and humor makes for an engaging story that is said to have broad appeal.
Adaptation for theatre
In April 1992, the book was adapted for the stage by Mary Morris, and premièred at the Sydney Festival in the same year. Directed by Wayne Harrison, it received rich praise from its first performances, and has since been shown throughout the world, including England, Canada, Japan, the United States, Cuba, and Portugal, and Cawamm.
Todd Morning, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, describes Colin as "incredibly feisty and brave", and criticises the book's "breakneck" pace, stating that this made it difficult to get to know Colin. Reviewers for the School Library Journal described Gleitzman's pacing in the audiobook as "wonderful", showing Colin's growing maturity.
Stephens regards Two Weeks with the Queen as being unusual in contemporary Australian children's literature because Colin is presented as having agency – he is capable of making decisions and taking action to change the world around him – even though he does not do so in the way he first intended. Maya Sen, writing for The Canberra Times, praises Colin's determination and character development, and enjoyed the book's humour and direct treatment of its themes.
- History of AIDS: 1987–1992
- Kirkus Reviews
- Morning, Todd (1991-05-01), "Two Weeks with the Queen (Children's Review)", School Library Journal (Library Journals, LLC) 37 (5): 92, ISSN 0362-8930
- Mandell, Phyllis Levy, and B. Allison Gray. "Two Weeks With The Queen." School Library Journal 53.3 (2007): 84. 14 February 2015.
- Stephens, J. (2003). Editor's introduction: "Always facing the issues – preoccupations in Australian children's literature." The Lion and the Unicorn, 27(2), 13. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/221759472?accountid=13902
- "Aussies Eye Top Book Prize" in Illawarra Mercury (ISSN: 1443-900X), 13 October, 2010 p. 15
- Untitled review by Elizabeth McCardell in Reading Time : The Journal of the Children's Book Council of Australia, vol. 34 no. 3 1990; (p. 23)
- Untitled review by Jo Goodman in Magpies : Talking About Books for Children (ISSN: 0817-0088), vol. 5 no. 4 September, 1990 p. 32
- "Natural Comic Tells It as It Is" by Suzanne Fleming in The Newcastle Herald, 21 April, 1990 p. 12
- "Tasty Trio of Original Delights" by Helen Elliott in The Australian Magazine, 5-6 May, 1990 p. 8
- "Treading a Fine Line : Morris Gleitzman's Provocative Fiction" by Jeri Kroll in Something to Crow About : New Perspectives in Literature for Young People, Wagga Wagga: Charles Sturt University Centre for Information Studies, 1999 p. 157-170
- Mission, Ray (2002). "Not Telling it Straight". In Geoff Bull & Michèle Anstey. Crossing the boundaries. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Education Australia. pp. 221–234. ISBN 9781740098106.
- Rustin, Margaret (1989-06-09), "Two Weeks with the Queen (Children's Review)", Times Educational Supplement (Times Supplements Ltd) (3806): pB15(1), ISSN 0040-7887
- Knoth, Maeve Visser (1991-07-01), "Two Weeks with the Queen (Children's Review)", The Horn Book Magazine (The Horn Book, Inc), vol. 67 no. 4, p. 456, ISSN 0018-5078
- "Two Weeks with the Queen (Book Review)(Children's Review)", The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (University of Illinois Press) 44, 1991-04-01: 192, ISSN 0008-9036
- "Two Weeks with the Queen (Book Review)(Children's Review)(Brief Article)", School Librarian (The School Library Association) 42, 1994-11-01: 161, ISSN 0036-6595