Disclosure: SheSpeaks provided me with a complimentary copy of Victoria by Daisy Goodwin to write this book review. However, as always, all ideas included in this post are mine.
Are you looking for a good book to dive into this holiday season? Consider Victoria written by Daisy Goodwin, the creator/writer of the Masterpiece presentation, Victoria, on PBS.
Victoria is a novel based upon the diaries of Queen Victoria that author Daisy Goodwin poured over during her university days. Inspired, she used the diaries as a jumping off point to imagine Victoria’s early reign as Queen of England. Knowing that the novel is based in fact and Victoria’s memories makes the novel addictive; I spent a fair bit of time while reading the book wondering what was true and what was fiction. That contrast makes for an enticing read.
Assuming the throne at 18 years old, Victoria faces machinations within her household, power plays from relatives wanting to manage her, and matchmaking attempts from other family members. Her relationship with her mother—often filled with recriminations and anger, despite great affection—is a cornerstone of Victoria. I found their dynamic relevant to parenting today—though I don’t know how I’d do if my teenager suddenly became my queen! The book shows Victoria’s evolution from a solitary girl whose best friend was her dog, Dash, to a Queen whose every word and fashion choice was scrutinized. Along the way, Victoria developed an attraction to her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and learned the painful lesson of the need to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.
Those aware of British history know that Victoria eventually married Albert, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, her first cousin, with whom she had a long and happy marriage and nine children. Victoria’s 63-year reign is known as the Victorian Age, during which time Great Britain saw expansion of its empire around the world, and significant growth in industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military areas.
Those achievements aren’t depicted in Victoria, though readers are rewarded with the courtship of Victoria and Albert.
Goodwin does an excellent job making Victoria a compelling read—even though you may know what happens, you still want to read on. Victoria is well-written, and I found myself flying through the 400-page hardcover.
I appreciated that Goodwin doesn’t shy away from the mistakes Queen Victoria makes early on in her reign (the Lady Flora Hastings scandal, for example), as well as her journey to become an accomplished politician in her own right. While the monarchy is Great Britain was revered during Victoria’s time (and still is today, considering all of the media coverage of the royal family), the power the Queen had was limited, yet Victoria found a way to work within these confines to steer her life, and her country, in the direction she wanted.
This book is perfectly set-up for a sequel that would examine Victoria’s life as a wife and mother, while also being Queen. I’m also intrigued how Albert adjusted to his life as Victoria’s spouse, and the impact of his influence on her reign. Should we expect book two, Daisy Goodwin?
Recommendation: If you are interested in the British monarchy, you’ll enjoy Victoria. If you want to learn what it is like to be queen and biography isn’t your thing, add Victoria to your reading list. Additionally, Victoria will make a great holiday present for that friend who loves to get lost in a good story. Happy reading!