Victoria: The Queen; An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire

Julia Baird. Random House, $35 (736p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6988-0
Journalist Baird dedicates this florid, heaving biography of Queen Victoria to undoing the myths that continue to surround the woman whose era bears her name—specifically, that she was eclipsed by her husband, Albert, in matters of state; was incapable of loving her children; and was an absentee monarch after Albert’s untimely death. Instead, Victoria emerges in Baird’s fluid prose as a figure to be reckoned with in her own right, a passionate wife as well as an unbending ruler who defied no fewer than seven assassination attempts. Victoria’s rich personal life makes for interesting reading, but Baird’s attempts to trace the beginnings of the suffrage and anti-slavery movements to the values embodied in Victoria’s reign are unconvincing, grafted as they are onto a mass of details about white dresses “edged with swansdown” and the Prince of Wales’s sordid love life. Baird’s empathy for her subject is apparent throughout, however, and when Victoria finally exits the stage at age 81, the narrative seems to exhale, drained. Royal biographies tend to be breathless and straitened at the same time, and Baird’s contribution is no exception, but she imbues the chilly figure of Victoria with welcome humor and warmth. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2016
Release date: 11/22/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-074-3
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