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Historical novelist and screenwriter Daisy Goodwin tells the story of a young Queen Victoria in her historical fiction novel Victoria. The story opens with eighteen year old Alexandrina Victoria inheriting the throne from her uncle in 1837. Most people thought she was too young, sheltered, and female to be Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. She surprises them all with a before unused authority and power and as one of her first acts as Queen, changes her name from the hated Alexandrina to Victoria. Raised under the strict Kensington System, Victoria was sheltered from society and allowed to walk down stairs only holding the hand of her governess and was forced to sleep in the same room as her mother. As Queen, her first experience of independence is fascinating to witness.
As Queen, Victoria must learn about her people, politics, and what it means to be a female monarch. She relies heavily on her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who has a reputation as a ladies man. There is definitely an attraction between them, but her family wants her to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. They had met as children and Victoria remembers him as stiff and serious. She is most certainly not interested.
This is a coming of age tale of a young woman thrust unexpectedly into a position of great responsibility. Victoria is stubborn and at times naïve but she is also clever and witty. The characterization in this book is wonderful and you feel as if you really know these famous historical figures. It is a page turner despite being a work of historical fiction. Author Daisy Goodwin studied Victoria’s diaries as a student at Cambridge and became fascinated by the feisty young version of a sometimes sober elderly monarch.
The novel follows the early period of Victoria’s rule and is a companion to the television series written by the same author. (The show is currently airing on PBS.) The romance and political dynamics keep the pace high in this novel that retains a light tone throughout. Victoria is not a serious historical account of facts, but a lovely insight into the personality and motivations behind a young Queen.
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