Review: Victoria: A Novel of a Young Queen, by Daisy Goodwin. St. Martin’s Press

victoriaApparently this is a companion piece to the upcoming PBS/Masterpiece presentation.

 

When I think of Queen Victoria, my mind’s images are those of a small, chubby woman, in early pictures appearing with her consort, Prince Albert, later with cozy family views with her many children. Still later, visions arise of the widowed Queen draped in mourning for all the years after the passing of her beloved husband. I remember the Shirley Temple movie, The Little Princess, which gave us Hollywood’s take on the Queen in her latter years.

 

But this book gives a different view: the eighteen-year-old girl who never knew her father and led a sheltered life under the watchful eyes of her mother and Sir John Conroy, her mother’s companion. This was a lively, talented girl who was an adept pianist, still cherished her childhood dolls, was devoted to her little dog, Dash, and enjoyed wearing the latest fashion and hairdos. I always was under the impression that Victoria’s Queenship came on her suddenly–but it appears that it was evident for some years that she was the only legitimate heir to the throne. Given that, she was given scant preparation for such a task. It seemed, at least in this story, that Victoria’s mother and Sir John thought they would have an easily led girl who would bend to their will. Thankfully, young Victoria was made of sterner stuff. Perhaps their first important clue was the young queen’s decision to adopt the name “Victoria” rather than her first name Alexandrina (hence the childish nickname “Drina” which Victoria also soon put a stop to).

 

Imagine what it must have been like to suddenly be the Queen of Great Britain! That is exactly what Daisy Goodwin has done here. Her enthralling vision of the life of the young Victoria held my attention from the start. Indeed, I found it hard to put the book down. I felt the determination of this teenager as she struggled to be her own person and to be a queen in very public circumstances. I had not known of the importance of her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, to the early portion of her reign. I also did not know of Victoria’s admiration for Elizabeth I, but it makes sense that she would be drawn to her only real Royal example of a young Queen on her own in a troubled and highly political world.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is vividly imagined and believable, and left me with a great appreciation for the qualities of this woman who held the British throne for so many years.  My thanks to Daisy Goodwin, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for making an advance copy of this book available for me to read and review.

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