Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, December 30, 2016

Historical Fiction Review: Victory by Daisy Goodwin

I had the extreme pleasure of reading Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. The book was phenomenal and now I'm clearing my schedule to watch the show Victoria on PBS, also written by Ms. Goodwin, on January 15th! So, you have 2 weeks to read the book before the show!!!

From the Publisher...

"Victoria is an absolutely captivating novel of youth, love, and the often painful transition from immaturity to adulthood. Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." ~ AMANDA FOREMAN

Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin—creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter—brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.

Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”

Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.

My Review...

Despite my love of British history, I admit that my knowledge of Queen Victoria was limited to knowing she loved her husband so much that she mourned him for all of her days, and that most people found her to be prudish because of her morality. So, I was extremely excited to read the book. Especially because I'd just finished binge-watching The Crown on Netflix, and needed another British queen fix. And I learned so much! Ms. Goodwin writes in beautiful, flowing, captivating words. The "just one more page... turns into twenty" kind of way. 

The book opens when Victoria aka "Drina" (nicknamed/called so my her mother/family as her first name was Alexandrina) is not yet queen. She's closeted away in a remote manor and ruled over by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her mother's comptroller, Sir John Conroy (a man you will truly despise.)

Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George III. Her father died shortly after she was born, and so did everyone else in line before her. As a child, she prayed her uncle would not pass before her eighteenth birthday, because she was so oppressed by her mother via the comptroller, Conroy, who wished her mother to rule as regent. They often did not see eye-to-eye on various topics. Victoria felt a distance between herself and her mother because her mother often took Conroy's side over hers. 

Her prayers were answered when her uncle died a month after she turned eighteen and she was able to avoid a regency, though there were plenty who tried to stand in her way. She found a champion in Lord Melbourne, asking if he would be her Prime Minister. The relationship between these two is powerful to say the least. He is guiding hand and teacher in her becoming a queen, though she was prepared for the role since birth. He helped her to truly see what her position meant. And taught her something of love. Victoria blooms within the pages from a somewhat petulant child intent on vindication for her "confinement" to a woman, a queen, who is respected.

From early on, her governess turned advisor/companion of the queen's, Lady Louise Lehzen was a great supporter of hers, and acted as a barrier between the Duchess of Kent/Sir Conroy and Victoria. I loved their relationship and was so glad that Victoria had a champion in her lady and in her prime minister.

Victoria greatly admired Queen Elizabeth (whom I also admire) and there was quite a bit of mirroring in her choices. The love of a man she couldn't marry, etc... I loved the way Ms. Goodwin tied this in so poetically.

Toward the end of the book, though she is resisting marrying, Victoria finds herself attracted to her cousin Prince Albert, though he makes her mad quite often with his disapproving manner. Handsome, proud, intense, well-educated, he is a prince that won't bend to her will, won't allow her to only hear what she wants to hear. They are a perfect balance to each other, for she brings out his smile, and makes him feel safe. 

A true winner, and not to be missed. Ms. Goodwin has blown me away. I only wish it had not ended! I could have read it forever! I highly recommend this book and I am thrilled to watch her show! 

Read it now! Amazon / Barnes and Noble  

Here is a first look at Victoria on PBS...

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