Monday, May 7, 2018

A Speculative Alternate-History of Royal Deception: My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley | Goodreads

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release: May 8, 2018 (previously published in the UK)
Source: Publisher
ISBN: 9780763688073
By turns thrilling, dramatic, and touching, this is the story of Queen Victoria’s childhood as you’ve never heard it before.

Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows. Her father is Sir John Conroy, confidant and financial advisor to Victoria’s mother, and he has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess that he calls the Kensington System. It governs Princess Victoria’s behavior and keeps her locked away from the world. Sir John says it’s for the princess’s safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it’s to keep her lonely and unhappy. Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the willful and passionate princess, Miss V has a decision to make: continue in silence or speak out. In an engaging, immersive tale, Lucy Worsley spins one of England’s best-known periods into a fresh and surprising story that will delight both young readers of historical fiction and fans of the television show featuring Victoria.
My Name is Victoria is a delightful alternate history that tells a curiously embellished story of Queen Victoria’s childhood. Drawing from real English history, this novel asks a compelling question: what was the relationship between Victoria and her real-life appointed companion, Miss V.? And it provides a pleasantly implausible answer in the form of a richly-developed story.

What I love most about this novel is the way it tells a fantastical what-if tale deeply rooted in realism. Each plot thread is spun from real people and real events. And Lucy Worsley, a curator at England’s Historic Royal Palace, weaves extensive academic knowledge with inventive imagination to create a royal tale you won’t quite hear about in history textbooks. Readers get to enter the vividly-imagined life of Miss V., a young woman who truly existed, but whose relationship with the future queen Victoria is poorly documented. Along with the author, they muse about the personality, passions, and relationships of both Miss V. and Victoria.

Best of all, My Name is Victoria lets readers grow with its lively and lifelike characters. At the outset of the novel, Miss V. is a child of 10 or 11, timid and uncertain of how to conduct herself around the queen. Over the multi-year course of the story, however, she grows as a person and as a friend of Victoria’s. By the end of the book, readers will feel as though they’ve received a factual glimpse into the life of a key historical figure.

Equally fascinating is this novel’s exploration of the “Kensington System,” an elaborate collection of rules and protocols devised by Victoria’s mother and Miss V.’s father. Ostensibly meant to keep Victoria safe from assassination attempts, these rules become a morally-dubious obstacle that challenges Miss V.’s loyalty to Victoria. The System also sparks a larger web of secrecy and scandal—again, based on real-life rumors—creating a high-stakes period drama that poses more questions than it answers.

My only complaint about My Name is Victoria has to do with the ending. The last 50 pages of action lead up to a climactic reveal that seems slightly rushed. Since this reveal requires some suspension of disbelief, I wish the story had provided more buildup and foreshadowing. But I can’t criticize too much, because the rushed, breathless racing toward a fantastical conclusion makes My Name is Victoria stick in your mind long after you’ve finished reading, sparking further questions and what-if wonders. And honestly, that’s half the fun of this book.

All in all, My Name is Victoria sent me into a spiral of reading Wikipedia pages and imagining other concealed conspiracies of Kensington Palace. I highly recommend this story to fans of alternate histories who want to question everything they thought they knew about Queen Victoria. The perfect novel to read as you fawn over Prince Louis or wait for the upcoming royal wedding, My Name is Victoria won’t disappoint.

1 comment:

  1. It's a bummer the ending felt rushed, especially when you've really enjoyed the book until then! It's like you've been cheated somehow. I hope your next one ends a little better. :)

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

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