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This is the first post in a new blog series I’m introducing where I’ll be suggesting two (or maybe more) books to pair together. I was an English major in college, and I always loved studying books that complemented each other, expanded on a topic, or provided different perspectives on the same theme. Even just reading for fun, I still often find myself wanting to read books together that really “go” together, and expand my knowledge or challenge my ideas about a given topic or theme.
After the royal wedding, I’m sure I’m not the only one who had a hard time getting back to reality. There is something about the British royal family that seems to fascinate (almost) everyone, but while everyone seems to have their minds on the modern royals right now, I thought I’d suggest some reading that goes back a few years:
Book #1: Victoria: a Novel by Daisy Goodwin
I first became interested in learning more about Queen Victoria after watching the PBS Masterpiece show Victoria. Victoria: A Novel is written by the show’s creator/writer, Daisy Goodwin. Goodwin began studying Queen Victoria as a student at Cambridge University, where she began reading Victoria’s diaries.
The novel, based on Victoria’s diaries, tells the story of the young Victoria, who wakes up one day shortly after her eighteenth birthday to find that her uncle has died and she is now Queen of England.
Despite those around her doubting her abilities and trying to control her, she is determined to rule the way she wants to. She is told she needs to find a husband, but she doesn’t want to get married and doesn’t have any interest in her potential suitors, including her cousin Prince Albert, who everyone tells her she’s destined to marry.
Victoria may be young but she is independent, assertive, opinionated and feisty, and doesn’t need anyone, save for maybe her trusted prime minister Lord Melbourne.
While the novel Victoria zooms in on Victoria’s late teens and early years as the queen, prior to her marriage to Prince Albert, Victoria the Queen is a more comprehensive view of her life, from her ascension to the throne as a teenager to her marriage and child-rearing years, to the death of her husband and the subsequent controversial relationship with her servant John Brown.
Queen Victoria’s historical perception was carefully constructed by those around her, including her daughter Beatrice, who went so far as to transcribe her diaries, censoring them along the way to remove everything that she found unsavory and burning the originals. Both of these books challenge the censored version of Queen Victoria and attempt to create a new image of her as she really was. Both Goodwin and Baird have written fascinating accounts of Victoria’s life that are perfect for those suffering from post-royal wedding hangovers like me.