Author: Daisy Goodwin
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press
Secondary Format: audiobook (narrated by Anna Wilson-Jones)
Start Date: November 29, 2016
End Date: December 8, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
“They are always teasing me for being small. They think that just because I have not grown in stature I have not matured in mind. Conroy, Lady Flora, even Mama still think of me as a child, not as a queen. Indeed they don’t believe me capable of ruling.”
Melbourne stopped on the gravel path and turned to look at Victoria. “Then they are mistaken, ma’am. I have not known you long, it is true, but I observed in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt.”
“You don’t think, then, that I am too small?”
“To me, ma’am, you are every inch a queen. And anyone who says otherwise should be sent straight to the Tower.”
Victoria is the second book I have read by author Daisy Goodwin. The first was An American Heiress, which I was less than smitten with when I read it back in January 2014, and it really put me off from reading anything else by the author (including her second novel, The Fortune Hunter).
However, when I came across Victoria, I felt it had a lot more potential than her previous two books. I was also excited to read it because I felt like I would get a head start on a new miniseries starting on Masterpiece on PBS this upcoming January (though it has already premiered in the UK). Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was Daisy Goodwin herself who was responsible for the screenplay in her screenwriting debut.
So, I was actually very excited to read this book. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Queen Victoria is a well-known queen of history, lending her name to the Victorian Age. She ruled England for 63 years, from her ascension at the age of 18 to her death at the age of 81. Only one monarch has ruled England for longer than Queen Victoria: Queen Elizabeth II, who surpassed her great-grandmother’s record in September 2015.
Daisy Goodwin’s story tells of only a brief period in Victoria’s life: from the day she found out she would be Queen to the day she proposed to Prince Albert. It was a light-hearted read about the rebellious Queen as she learned to rule a country. Daisy Goodwin did a good job of making this period of history accessible and pleasurable to read, even if a few facts were jumbled chronologically to make for a better plot.
However, when I finished, I was left wanting more…more information about her early life, more information about her relationship with Prince Albert, and more information about her life after Prince Albert.
Because this book left me wanting more, I have also listened to a biography about Queen Victoria by Julia Baird entitled Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled An Empire, which has given me further insight into this great woman (Goodreads review here). The following is a quote from Baird’s biography:
Victoria believed that her greatest work – to improve herself, as Albert had bidden her – was not yet complete. “I die,” she wrote in instructions to Bertie and Beatrice about her funeral, “in peace with all fully aware of my many faults.” Those encircling her bedside knew of her faults: her capriciousness, her temper, her domineering way with her children, her sharp eye, her tendency to self-pity, her unchecked selfishness, her conviction that she was always right. But they also knew of her kindness, her loyalty, her humor, her devotion to her work, her faith, her lack of pretension of prejudice, and her resilience. As Laurence Housman wrote, “The most dramatic thing about Queen Victoria was her duration: in the moving age, to which she gave her name, she remained static.” It was why, in her lifetime, she went from a teenager to a totem of an empire.
I think Daisy Goodwin’s work was well-done. It was light-hearted yet serious, and though told with obvious speculation on the thoughts of the young queen, the author strove to stay true to the facts – though there were several slight discrepancies between this book and historical facts, most of them were exaggerations or rearrangements of Queen Victoria’s timeline.
Through this work, I really felt like I got to know the young queen and gained an insight into her life: a life that was far-from-perfect. Although she made her fair share of mistakes, Queen Victoria strove to serve her country to the utmost, which is something I respect. It was great to see how a woman could run a country in a time when women themselves were unable to vote, even if she did not agree with universal suffrage.
I am really excited to see how Daisy Goodwin will transform her work from the page to the stage in her upcoming miniseries of the same name. I really hope that she will continue to tell Victoria’s story beyond the last pages of her book.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.