Book Review: Victoria
By: Daisy Goodwin
Published By: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Page Count: 404
Adult - Historical Fiction
British royalty and the line of succession is an area of minimal knowledge for me. I wanted to watch the PBS miniseries, but I always prefer to read the novel first.
The novel begins when Victoria is on the cusp of ascending to the throne. Her uncle, the king, is in ill health and she is in line to rule one of the most powerful countries in the world, but not everyone is happy to have the youthful woman as the monarch. Her other uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, works behind the scenes to do everything possible to steal the crown. Other forces are at work to ensure Victoria does take the throne, but will be a puppet for others' political agendas. None of the men in Victoria's world expect her to stand on her own two feet. Victoria, though small in stature, is not one to be bullied. Becoming queen allows her a measure of freedom that previously has been denied her by her mother and her mother's controlling personal secretary, Sir John Conroy. For once in her life, Victoria is at the helm of her own destiny.
The remaining portion of the novel focuses on Victoria's days as queen and later her relationship with Prince Albert. In many ways this novel is Victoria's coming of age story, but it also provides an in depth look at the United Kingdom during the mid-1800's. As someone who has largely studied US History, I enjoyed comparing what was happening across the pond during Victoria's reign with what was happening within my own country during the same time period.
Reading this novel helped me form a new appreciation for Victoria. She fought against traditional gender roles in a time when it was unpopular for women to think for themselves. Her actions defined her nation and while she made mistakes, she learned from these wrong turns and used them to influence her future decisions. She cared deeply for her people and wanted the best for her country. I also loved seeing the human, down to earth side of the famous queen. In particular, I was drawn to her fondness for her spaniel, Dash.
While the novel focuses on Victoria in her youth, I craved more information. I was astonished to learn that she reigned for 63 years; her reign was only recently surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II. Her tenure was a time of transition and expansion.
I haven't made it around to watching the series yet, but I hope to remedy that soon now that I have finished the book. I found it to be interesting and well researched.
One Last Gripe: I wish there was another volume that would explain the next part of Victoria's life.
Favorite Thing About This Book: Watching Victoria's growth from headstrong teenager to a competent monarch
First Sentence: A shaft of dawn light fell on the crack in the corner of the ceiling.
Favorite Character: Victoria
Least Favorite Character: Conroy
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.