January 19, 2017

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:06 pm by suebe2

victoriaVictoria
by Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin’s Press

Alexandrina was 15 years-old when she realized that she would probably become Queen of England.  Although she didn’t dread her fate, she did worry.  What did she know about ruling?  Would her Uncle George live until she turned 18?  Because if he didn’t she would have to have a regent and Drina, as her mother called her, knew that it would be her mother’s advisor Lord Conroy.

Fortunately, King George didn’t die until after his niece had turned 18.  In addition to ruling with only a handful of trusted advisors, she was able to choose the name that would be used at the coronation.  Against the advice of Lord Conroy, she chose her middle name — Victoria.

Author Daisy Goodwin has crafted a novel of the first year or so of Queen Victoria’s reign.  Yes, it is fiction but it is carefully researched and meshes with the nonfiction that I’ve read about the time period and the queen.  Goodwin is also the author of the script for the Masterpiece presentation, Victoria.

Strictly speaking this is not a young adult novel but it has a lot to offer a young reader.

The queen was a teenager when she took the throne. She had never been able to choose her own friends, her own clothing or her own studies.  This was a huge shift for her.  It was interesting to see how she met the various challenges.  I’d love to say that she met them all with grace and wisdom but . . . not really.  Still, she was a well-meaning person and she often learned from her mistakes.

Because this is an adult novel, the emphasis is somewhat different from it would be if it was written for teens.  But that isn’t what may seem the strangest.  There was also a big push for Victoria to marry.  The concern was that an unmarried girl would be too frivolous to rule.  Her head and her thoughts would be too easily swayed.  A husband would settle her right down. I know, I know.  It seems asinine today but this story is written true to the time.

It is a quick easy read that would make a top-notch introduction to this amazing woman.   A woman who gave her middle name to an era.

–SueBE

August 21, 2014

At Her Majesty’s Request by Walter Dean Myers

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:03 pm by suebe2

At Her Majesty's RequestAt Her Majesty’s Request
by Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic

She was only a small child when almost everyone in her village was killed by women warriors.  They took the princess and several other people back to their king, Gezo.  He told the girl she would be safe.  The people who took care of her told her tales of human sacrifice.  Two years later, she was brought out to be part of a very special blood sacrifice.  The Dahomans honored their ancestors through sacrifice.  This sacrifice was also designed to show a British military officer the might of the Dahomey.  He was there to put a stop to slavery but even the might British empire couldn’t stop King Gezo whether he chose to sacrifice these people or sell them.

Fortunately, Commander Forbes was determined not to let this child die.  He made it clear that Queen Victoria would never kill an innocent child.  Furthermore, she would never respect a ruler who did.  The girl, named by the commander Sarah Forbes Bonetta, was given to Forbes as a gift for Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria took a special interest in the girl’s life, paying for her education.  When she returned to Africa, she was better educated than the missionary women who thought that Africans were not capable of teaching their own children.

As is always the case with a historic figure, there are gaps in this somewhat sparse story but it doesn’t make Sarah’s life any less fascinating.  Here is a girl who escaped both slaver and human sacrifice, only to have almost no control over her own life.  In part, this was because she was upper class in Victorian England.  Where a poor woman might support herself, an educated woman had to marry.  But Sarah may have had even less control than other upper class women, not because of her race but because she had attracted the attention of the Queen.  When Victoria decided you should move from England to Sierra Leone and back again, it wasn’t an item for discussion.  Happy with the decision or angry, you packed up and moved.

I’m not sure how I missed this book when it came out in 1999.  I recently learned about it when Walter Dean Myers died.  I wanted to sample his work but through a wholy unfamilear book.  I’m not sure this book is still in print but it is worth finding.  I requested it from my local library.

–SueBE

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