Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN 13: 9781408882016
Published: March 2017
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
Although I love Lucy Worsley from her BBC documentaries, I knew I’d love this book as soon as I knew of its existence as her first fiction book was one of my favourites in 2016. In that book we learnt of Henry VIII and his many wives. In this, we learn of Queen Victoria, from when she’s about 11 years old and through her depressing teenage years in the leadup to her coronation.
A quick look on wikipedia confirms that the book gets the majority of the history right (and it’s sad I had to use wiki, but my schooling unfortunately didn’t cover England which is why I’m so glad for historical fiction today!) Without a father from a very young age, Princess Victoria was cared for mainly by a German governess, Lehzen. She was controlled by her mother, the Duchess, and Sir John Conroy – the comptroller (as he served with Victoria’s father in the army). Sir John brings his own daughter in to befriend (and spy) on poor Victoria, as they are the same age, and his daughter’s name being Victoire – though called Miss V to show her place in the world. Differing from history however, in this book we see the two young girls strike up a real friendship. Miss V is pulled left and right by both worlds – hoping to please her father and believing they must do what’s right for the princess (even if she isn’t aware of it), and then also truly understanding her friend’s mind, and wondering whether her father really is in the right.
The next part of the book jumps ahead several years, and we see Miss V firmly entrenched in Victoria’s world – now there’s no hesitation on where her loyalty lies – and it’s the true loyalty of a friend, where she’s content to dress plainly, and speak with only Victoria’s feelings at the forefront of her mind. Their friendship is lovely to witness, and it’s one sturdy constant in Victoria’s shaky world of a mother and comptroller she can’t trust, and the heartache of being in your teens, growing steadily closer to holding the crown someday, and having your affections toyed with by young men.
The plot (though governed by history) putters along well and the pacing suits the interest – for example, how I said before of how it jumps ahead a few years. Worsley’s writing style makes the history come alive as we get to understand it from a human perspective rather than dates and facts, and it makes us care about those involved.
The typeface and small illustrations through the book do it service, and along with Eliza Rose (and hopefully others Worsley will bring out in future), these will someday make a lovely set on a young reader’s bookcase.
With an author’s note it’s easy to understand the minor changes throughout the book. As is with any subject, anything can be taught if the holder of the knowledge is passionate about it – the reader or listener can’t help but be caught up in the lesson.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on anything else Worlsey writes.