I really enjoyed this one. I have read a great many things set in the Victorian era, and was familiar with Victoria’s later (post-Albert) years, but knew very little about her pre-accession and early-reign years, so this one caught my eye immediately. I am so glad it did!
Goodwin’s story-telling style is very engaging and easy-going. She really brought the characters to life. Historical fiction can be tricky – so much history is full of features that seem to defy the bounds of reality, that it can be difficult to write a fictionalized version that feels authentic. This book did not suffer from that at all – it felt like reading the best non-fiction: a great intermingling of information and storytelling. I was surprised at much of what I learned in the reading – early-years Victoria and later-years Victoria were VERY different people… This should be surprising given the length of her reign and the changes in the world around her during its course, but it somehow was nevertheless. It made for more than a few “no way?!” moments while reading, which are always fun.
Upon finishing this one I was immediately drawn to find out more – particularly about the Albert/Victoria partnership years. I had picked up a non-fiction piece about precisely that as a kindle daily deal shortly before beginning this one, and turned to that next. That’s where I started to get a little, well, less enthusiastic about this Goodwin book…
First, let me say that I KNOW THIS IS FICTION. It’s billed as such, and therefore I understand that the author has as much latitude as she wants when writing it. BUT, that said, historical fiction tends to stick to the facts where they are known and only forage into fiction when they are not – e.g., particular conversations, inner monologues, behind-the-scenes things that history never revealed. I found a number of fairly significant discrepancies between the people/relationships presented in this novel and those in the non-fiction book – and those people/relationships were essential to the Goodwin story. I haven’t taken the time yet to delve into the reason behind this – did she just want to go in a different direction? did she not intend to actually write historical fiction? did the non-fiction somehow get these issues horribly wrong? – and I know it shouldn’t detract from the way I felt about this one, but it did a bit… I don’t expect 100% historical specificity in my historical fiction, but if something is billed as a novel about the life of Victoria (the actual historical figure), I expect it to track with the facts wherever possible – otherwise it isn’t a novel about the life of Victoria, but about someone based on her… It may seem like nit-picking, but it is something that struck me rather strongly.
Still, I did genuinely enjoy this story for what it was – a story about a girl named Victoria who became queen of England at eighteen. And I enjoyed Goodwin’s writing style enough to pick up one of her earlier titles. So in that regard, it was a complete success.