Historical fiction at its best. 4.5/5 stars.
Thank you to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book for review.
Victoria will be published on 22nd November.
The blurb: 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…
I requested this ARC from NetGalley because I’d watched and thoroughly enjoyed the TV version which was recently shown on ITV here in the UK. I liked the characterisation of the historical figures and was particularly gripped by Victoria’s relationships with the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and Prince Albert.
Daisy Goodwin wrote this novel at the same time as writing the TV script and, as you might expect, they are very similar. If you have already watched the TV version, don’t read this expecting any surprises!
That said, I enjoyed the book even more than the TV version. For starters, there were no distracting side plots involving the servants. While I didn’t dislike the insights the TV version gave us into life below stairs, I didn’t think they added anything we needed to know. And obviously the novel gives us additional access to the thoughts and feelings of the characters that no screen adaptation can give. The writing is superb. It’s smooth, accessible and captures both the more and less glamorous aspects of monarchy brilliantly.
My only gripe was that while the TV series took us up to the birth of Victoria’s first child, the book ended much earlier, with her engagement. I was so disappointed it was over! I can only hope Daisy Goodwin has already been commissioned to write another book and series.
Overall: Historical fiction at its best. A must for anyone who enjoyed the recent TV series.
P.S. Good news for those of you in the US (and you might feel in need of some right now): Victoria will premier 15 January 2017 on PBS. It’s brilliant television. Please watch it!