Victoria by Daisy Goodwin: Book Review & Plot Synopsis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin: Plot Synopsis
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is a work of historical fiction focusing on the early reign of Queen Victoria. Her reign began in June of 1837 and ended in May of 1876. This quick paced novel explores her sheltered upbringing and early reign. The novel focuses primarily on on Victoria’s struggles in society, romance and self expression. The book itself is a mere 416 pages in length, and is broken into four smaller novella style sub-sections.
Each section of the book deals with a different conflict in Queen Victoria’s early years as Queen of England. Major sub-plots include her coronation, the Flora Hastings affair, and the strained relationship Victoria had with her mother. Her relationship with Lord Melbourne and her engagement to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha are also major focuses of the novel.
By all known accounts Victoria was known as a candid and stubborn queen. Unlike many in her time, she was extremely open about sex and the trials of motherhood. Her honesty and truth led many to love her, and others to loath her. Victoria survived 8 assassination attempts throughout her life. Her stubbornness and willfulness are a continuing theme throughout the novel, as well as her attempts to overcome her impulses and rule effectively.
Victoria is a novel not only about a queen, but about the transition from immaturity to adulthood. It also serves as a lesson in finding your own voice, and being true to who you are. Victoria may have been a queen, but she was also a woman who would not let her voice be silenced by those who claimed to know better.
Victoria: True to Life or Fantastically Fictional?
As in all Historical Fiction, liberties must be taken here and there in order to fill in the gaps. The timeline in the book remains mostly true to the actual sequence of events in history. There were a few scruples that I did notice. The timing of the reconciliation of Victoria and her mother the Duchess of Kent was one. In the novel they reconcile shortly before Victoria and Albert meet, in reality this did not take place until after Victoria’s marriage.
Another thing that annoyed me beyond all reason was that there is no evidence whatsoever that Victoria ever felt more than a friendly affection for Lord Melbourne. This is a conflict that spans almost entirety of the book. Victoria kept journals throughout her life and essentially documented everything she did. (Seriously, she wrote about how much she enjoyed walking up steps behind her husband because she enjoyed looking at his backside!) If she had truly been in love with Lord Melbourne then she probably would have written it down somewhere. It felt as though Daisy Goodwin was trying to squeeze blood from a stone in order to make the book more interesting to read.
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin: But Was the Book Good?
In my honest opinion? No. While I found the book incredibly easy to read and I finished it quickly, I wouldn’t call it a “good book” by any stretch. Historical Fiction is one of my favorite Genres next to High Fantasy and this novel just wasn’t up to par. At all.
The fact is that nothing is ever comfortably resolved throughout any of the chapters. The only time I felt that there was an actual resolution to an issue, was when Victoria agreed to grant Conroy a Peerage in Ireland to get him to leave her mother’s service. Even this was handled in such an off-the-cuff manner that there was no satisfaction in his leaving. Daisy Goodwin had done a marvelous job of making me really hate Conroy. I disliked him so much that I honestly wouldn’t have minded if she had fudged the facts a little and had him tried for treason.
Did I mention that the book ends when Victoria proposes to Prince Albert? Their “romance” and courtship lasted less than 1/4 of the entire book. Seriously: that arc starts on page 325 and the book ends on page 401. Their “romance” was literally them bickering at one another but admitting only to themselves that they were attracted to the other person. This is doubly confusing because Victoria spends the better part of section 3 thinking about how she wants to be more like Elizabeth I and rule alone and not be beholden to another man. (Although she is constantly listening to Lord Melbourne and having him make every decision for her when it comes to ruling anyway.) But all of her “I can do this on my own” flies right out the window when she sees Albert’s pretty face.
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin: Final Thoughts
I do not regret purchasing Veronica by Daisy Goodwin. Despite my negative review, I didn’t hate the book outright. I just found it deeply unsatisfying. My assumption is that the writing is so ineffectual because the Author admitted that she was watching the TV show Veronica as she writing. I can’t help but think she was letting the passion on the show bleed into what she thought her novel was actually portraying.
Would I recommend this book to historical fiction fans? No. But I can say that it would make a good book to read by the pool. But that is about the extent of it.