When ITV released the first episode of Victoria, my roommate (fellow lover of all things period drama) and I sat glued to the screen exclaiming over every detail. Not least of which was our pleasant surprise that the screenwriter was none other than one of our favorite authors, Daisy Goodwin (The Fortune Hunter, The American Heiress).
Why do we love her? Because Daisy Goodwin has the gift of ushering her readers into a world filled with silk, pearls, balls and intrigue. Hushed conversations behind closed doors and complicated scandals all draw you in and encapsulate you in another realm almost before you realize what’s happened. Victoria is no exception.
One of the most fascinating things about this novel is that it was written while Goodwin was writing the television series. So she had to decide what to flesh out in the novel and what to cut and alter for the series simultaneously. I personally think that she achieved an excellent balance. And as understandably faithful as the show is to the book, it’s also vastly different. Without giving anything away, let me just say that you will experience different storylines between the two. Refreshing, eh?
You know what else is refreshing? Surprisingly, Queen Victoria. Let me tell you why she’s one of my faves.
Victoria became the queen of one of the world’s largest empires in history at age eighteen. I don’t know about you, but I was just starting college at that age - not nearly as impressive. Imagine having no power and then being catapulted into monarchy, only to find that it is now the expectations of the people that have the most potential to hold you captive.
Victoria was kept almost entirely in the dark about how to run a country. Such a drastic change in circumstances and the complications that follow make for a captivating plot. The reader is allowed a glimpse behind the walls of the palace to see the young Queen’s frustrations with those who control her and the constant battle between what she wants and what she must do as Queen.
I think I relate to Victoria’s stubbornness and rebelliousness the most. I’m a work in progress, what can I say? She and I share the bad habit of clinging to ideals, to what should be, instead of what must be or simply what is. That’s the usual struggle in my mind and the one that the novel focuses on as it deals with the early years of her reign, including her reliance on her controversial Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne and her eventual romance with Prince Albert.
Victoria is an inspiring novel because it portrays the young, iconic Queen simply as a woman. It shows all of her faults without diminishing her immense potential, which we know from history was quite impressive. Her mistakes shook her position but did not break it. She was a woman that reigned over a nation that did not allow the rest of her sex to vote, or even have full personhood, in many ways. She was a trendsetter and a woman that was often far more modern than the times she lived in would indicate.
Victoria is a novel about a woman that dared. Now that’s something we can all aspire to, am I right?