Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer

Victoria Rebels is another fascinating novel for young teens, written by Carolyn Meyer. This historical fiction tells the story of Queen Victoria of England focuses on Victoria's life growing up, beginning when she was a young child from age seven until just after her marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld of Germany.

Young Victoria lived at Kensington Palace with her mother, Victoire, who raised her in a very strict manner. Victoire was strongly under the influence of Sir John Conroy, an ambitious adviser to the royal household, who hoped to eventually make himself Victoria's private secretary when she became queen. Every aspect of Victoria's life was rigidly controlled, from having her hand held when she walked down the stairs to sleeping in her mother's bedroom until she was eighteen! Her relationship with her mother was so poor, that when she became queen, Victoria banished her mother to a distant part of Buckingham Palace and instructed her that she was not to visit her unannounced.

The novel is divided into three parts; Part I, The Princess, Part II, The Queen, and Part III, The Prince. Told in Victoria's voice, Meyer uses some of the same techniques known to be used by Victoria in her own diaries, such as capitalizing words and profuse use of underlining what she had written!

I found it interesting how Meyer's ability to portray Victoria with such realism, caused my sympathies to change throughout the book. In Part I The Princess, I sympathized deeply with Victoria, who really never had a time to be a carefree child. She was groomed from the very beginning to be a queen by her ambitious mother Victoire and her mother's advisor, Sir John Conroy. Victoria was often caught in the power struggles between King William and her mother, Victoire, causing her great distress and fits of temper. She was forced by her mother to keep a diary of all her mistakes and wrongdoings, something that caused a great deal of frustration and anger for Victoria.

In Part II The Queen, Meyers portrays Victoria as petulant, willful, and prideful. It was hard to empathize with her as Victoria felt she was always in the right, stubbornly insisting upon her own way. She often was her own worst enemy. It is quite likely that growing up with so little control over even the smallest areas of her resulted in Victoria herself being very demanding.
Copy of the painting of Victoria and Dash done in 1833
Part III The Prince, relates the events surrounding her brief courtship with the handsome, tall Albert, and the early years of their marriage. Her stormy arguments with her beloved husband, Albert, continue to show Victoria's temper, but she also begins to recognize that the way she behaved when she was younger, was wrong. Yet this portrayal (which is historically accurate) makes Queen Victoria quite real to Meyer's readers.

I enjoyed Meyer's portrayal of Victoria as a young girl who eventually grows up, maturing into her reign to become the longest serving (and a most beloved) English monarch and to have an era named after her! I also found it interesting that Victoria did not want to marry (until she met Albert) and that she was not interested in having children. Whether her views on bearing children changed or she simply did her duty, Victoria and Albert had nine children!

Victoria Rebels is another finely crafted historical novel from Carolyn Meyers. It is based on Queen Victoria's diaries, which were not private, but which Victoria was required to write and which were read by her mother. Meyer has included many resources for her readers should they want to follow up on Queen Victoria and the era she lived, known as the Victorian age. There are also extensive notes at the back of the book on several of the main historical figures in the novel, providing background information.

I applaud Meyer's efforts to write excellent historical fiction, which stays true to the facts and often offers a balanced view of history.

A great follow-up to Carolyn Meyer's novel is the movie, The Young Victoria which covers almost exactly the time period of Meyer's novel. Emily Blunt stars as young Victoria and Rupert Friend as Prince Albert. With the exception of the wounding of Prince Albert in the movie, it is historically accurate.

Book Details:
Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
Simon and Schuster: A Paula Wiseman Book     2013
265 pp.

No comments: