This is a story about a joke. It is also a story about belief, and the conflict that arises because of that belief. It is a story about how a joke and belief can change a world by changing the minds and spirits of those who inhabit it. A man becomes King, and treats this responsibility as a joke, capering and buffooning his way through life, realising that in the coming together of great nations a stilted seriousness has long since stifled humour.
In his humour he conceives a grand joke, and enforces it on the people of London, who, with grace good and ill, humour the King.
A boy meets a King, and from that fateful intersection of destinies is set upon a path that changes the minds of men, that reshapes the London and elevates the joke to something more than could have been imagined.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a short book, and is exquisitely written, reflecting the post-Victorian London of this alternative reality, stiff and uniform and lacking in poetry and humour. It rolls with a frantic mania, with characters wonderfully evoked by the force of their personalities, in the almost childish vibrancy of their emotions. And yet, at its heart, lies a debate, an examination of the nature of heroism, of patriotism, of humour and belief in an idea absurd.
It is a debate still relevant in a world confused and ever-changing, where ideas and ideals shift without thought and principles are mired by an overly complicated world.