I’m so excited for the Masterpiece airing of Victoria starring Jemma Coleman (of Dr. Who) as the Queen herself. But, there is also a new release about those early years of the little Queen that is so familiar in her widow’s weeds, looking rather stern, round, and joyless. Written by Daisy Goodwin, please read on for my review of
I love my Brit History, and Victoria, as one of the most unlikely candidates for Queen oversaw the multitude of changes in the 19th century. While this book focuses on her early life and determination to be independent and fully embrace her new role, for me, much of the intriguing parts of her life were the post-Albert years, the trials and tribulations of her children, and her near-reclusive removal from the public eye.
But now there is a chance to see Victoria as she was, pre-widow’s weeds on a round and seemingly joyless countenance, and what potential there is for a compelling read. It did, however, read very much like a screenwriter’s book to me… and therein lies the rub.
Early on, Victoria appears as a sheltered and spoilt child, frustrated with her mother’s attempts to protect (or manipulate as common history would have one believe) her: cycling through emotional ups and downs much like a teenager. The requisite emotional impact behind her actions was lacking, if not entirely demanding readers assume it there. With the choice of her ‘royal name’ and her determination to strike out and take on the role of Queen, we see mistakes made in haste, great learning and growth. All rather superficially until the very compelling Lord Melbourne, William Lamb.
The introduction of Lamb, a man with a rather troubled personal life but wholly versed in the politics of the day was eager to influence and inform the young Queen, and from early mentor to later trusted friend and advisor, he did provide a sense of continuity and intrigue to the story… Fictionalized to bring in a romantic element, the appeal of Lamb for Victoria was apparent. Older, father-like, educated, deferential and self-aware: he’s not entirely Byronic in his manner, but there is a layer of melancholy that does appear in context.
While Goodwin doesn’t always score high points from me for pacing, the descriptions and insets that allow readers to visualize the moments are wonderful. It is easy to see that this could be a “chicken-egg” conversation: whether the idea for a screen production was first and book second, or book was written with the intention of a screen production – the story is perfectly suited to the screen. As a book, the subject and the author’s treatment of fact v fiction is the true intrigue in the story, with a few moments of little known history revealed and the years pre-Albert are highlighted, unlike many other books about this woman.
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Genre: Biography / Memoir, British, European History, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Victorian
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: 22 November, 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours
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“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”
Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.
Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.
One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….
Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.