I couldn’t resist reading Victoria, the novel by Daisy Goodwin. It follows Queen Victoria beginning in 1838, when she becomes Queen of England a month into her 18th year, taking us through her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Goodwin was commissioned to make a TV series about the life of Victoria and I tuned into the first episode now airing on PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. I wanted more and I got exactly what I wanted.
Historical fiction must work on two levels, factual integrity and breathing life into the story. During her days at Cambridge, Goodwin began reading Victoria’s diaries, some 62 million words the future queen began writing at age 12. Goodwin fully realizes and brings to the page the nature of the woman and how she went from an impetuous teenager to Queen.
Goodwin’s Victoria, true to fact, depicts a woman with human appetites and passions. She was a woman who, standing 4’11” could be underestimated by those around her. Despite being cloistered in Kensington during her early years, she watched and prepared for the moment she took the throne. She befriended Lord Melbourne and installed a trusted staff, even as her mother and Lord John worked to squelch her intention to lead at every opportunity.
Victoria, a sort of playbook to the TV series, reads at times like a film script, but not enough to take away from this well crafted portrayal of the most influential woman of the 19th century.