Review: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

30841109In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favour of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband…

I watched the Victoria TV show religiously, as I will do when it returns for its second series. I’ve always been fascinated by all things Victorian, and I love old-timey Kings and Queens but oddly, I don’t read that much historical fiction. When I discovered Victoria was also a book, though, I had to read it because I am invested. Very invested.

The book and the show were being written at the same time (I do believe) and it shows, the book is so much like the series, which for me is perfect. It takes everything I loved from the series and delivers it in a delicious booky form. The difference between the book and the series being only where the book ends. If you’ve watched the series, you’ve already passed the end of the book – I am hoping there will be more novelisations released to coincide with the series, I definitely wanted to see a bit more of Albert, who only enters into the novel in the last act.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and found that the emotional moments pack the same punch in book form as they did visually. Victoria was just as feisty as I was hoping and had me rooting for her from the beginning.

Before I started reading, I was worried that the writing style might mimic classics from the same period – I have a lot of trouble reading classics (I just don’t click with that style of writing) but I so wanted to enjoy the novel. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the narration while dealing with the historical was actually quite contemporary in style. Praise be to Ms. Goodwin!

All in all, it was a lovely book, and it was lovely to revisit characters that I have missed during the break between series. A great read if you’re a historical fiction novice like me, and if you love all things Victoria. If you liked the series, you’ll like the book.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 20

I remember the first time I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I came to it quite late (Season 6 was on TV by the time I managed to catch it). I was 9 or 10, I think, and one of my friends really wanted to show me the musical episode (her family made me a bacon sandwich, they slathered it with butter but I was too awkward to tell them that butter made me sick to my stomach so I muddled through). I remember her trying to get me to sing parts even though I had never seen it before (the result was not pretty) but from then I was hooked.

I would retreat up to my bedroom or my parents’ bedroom before I got a TV for all to myself to watch episodes as they came onto BBC 2. Shortly after I found myself falling in love with Season 6, BBC 2 started playing earlier episodes, I think on Sundays. Whenever I went out I would beg my mum to record the episodes I would be missing for me. (I think I still have my home-recorded versions of Becoming (parts 1 and 2) stashed on a shelf in my childhood bedroom. Eventually, getting fed up of having to record things for me all the time, my parents got me the video box sets for my birthdays and Christmases. I now need to get a DVD box set, as they changed the design when I was half-way through replacing my videos (the shame). It is from there that I found Charmed, and Dark Angel, and fell in love with supernatural fantasy and sci-fi dramas, and later paranormal fiction.

When I think back, so many of my interests now are directly related to discovering that show. Obviously, I couldn’t let the 20th anniversary pass me by without creating a post devoted to my favourite series. I couldn’t decide what to focus on so this will be a mixed bag of favourite episodes, favourite characters and anything else I haven’t yet thought of but will inevitably end up including. I hope you enjoy my lovey, gushy nostalgia.

Favourite Characters

There are so many great characters in Buffy but these three are characters that have always stuck out to me for one reason or another. That’s not to say I don’t love any of the others, I do, they all have their own little sections of my heart. I don’t think there’s a single character that I thought the show could have done without. Good job.

1. Willow Rosenberg

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There has never been a day when Willow was not my favourite. I adore Willow, from nerdy Willow to scary veiny Willow. I think Willow probably had the biggest journey of any character in the show, she is so different in the last episode from the shy, meek little girl we see in the first. She goes through addiction and comes out the other side, she learns to appreciate herself for herself rather than what others think of her, and she becomes so very powerful in the process. (Willow is also part of my two favourite relationships in the entire show so there’s that.)

2. Daniel “Oz” Osbourne

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How could Oz not be on this list? Everything that came out of his mouth was golden. I would love to have even an ounce of Oz’s chill. There is also the matter of Oz and Willow to consider, the amount of love and care he showed towards her, and the ‘Who is that girl?’ moments, before they were officially a thing, stole my tiny heart. Oz is possibly my favourite male character from any show ever. Possibly.

3. Spike

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Spike has made some bad decisions and done some incredibly questionable things (even when he was ‘good’) but I am a sucker for an only-sort-of-if-they-have-to hero. I am not ashamed to say that I have a drinking glass with Spike on it which I still use to this day. I do not condone most of his actions but that doesn’t make him a bad character – it just makes him a mostly bad person (with little hints of goodness here and there).

Drusilla deserves a special mention here because I adore her too. My mad little darling.

Favourite Monsters

I am not counting Big Bads in this section. Other than Dark Willow, I don’t actually have a favourite Big Bad, they were all enjoyable. Warren is arguably the most terrifying because he is real. He is a real thing, a real thing that happens on a regular basis. ThoughtCatalog have a really good article on this, you should read it.

But the little monsters? Yes, I definitely have favourites.

1. Gnarl (Same Time, Same Place – Season 7)

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Gnarl was creepy as hell, his childlike, sing-song way of speaking combined with the slow, painful death he inflicts on his victims (and later Willow, though luckily Buffy gets there and slays him before he can do any fatal damage) is possibly one of the most creepy things that happened in Buffy. It’s an episode I revisit quite a lot, though while Gnarl is incredibly creepy, he is also oddly compelling.

2. Gachnar (Fear, Itself – Season 4)

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In the words of Xander, who’s a little fear demon? Gachnar is ridiculous. The whole episode sets up for something that could be truly terrifying and we get Gachnar. That’s one of the things I love most about Buffy, so often Whedon makes you expect something and then throws something completely different at you – it was never predictable beyond its general premise.

3. Der Kindestod (Killed by Death – Season 2)

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This one freaked me out. It still freaks me out. It’s the face. THE FACE. I do love that he’s wearing a hat though, that’s a nice touch.

Special mention here goes to the Gentlemen from Hush. More on that later.

Favourite Episodes

This was incredibly difficult, as I was determined to stick to three (and a special mention) for every section. My choices are predictable, which only goes to show how good those episodes were. Imagine picking your favourite three puppies of 144 incredibly cute, wobbly little puppy faces – that’s what this decision was like… only scarier.

1. Hush (Season 4)

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Obvious answer number one. But come on? An almost word-less episode which still manages humour and is exceptionally creepy to boot? This episode still scares me.  Tall floating men who do nothing with their face but smile? Eek. Screaming without screaming? Not something I would ever want to happen. If I am screaming, I want people to know about it. It’s so different from every other episode and yet it fits into the narrative perfectly. It definitely showcases the often-forgotten score. I love scores so it was great for me to find an episode which really appreciated its background music (or would it be foreground music in this case?). It’s just an all-round fantastic piece of television.

2. The Body (Season 5)

Excuse me while my heart shatters into a million pieces. This episode was another bold decision from Whedon, no background music, moments with no speech, no monsters to speak of – only death. This episode stands out to me for many reasons but the main one is this:

It’s so heartbreaking and powerful and so apt. Joss Whedon, I tip my hat to you.

3. Once More With Feeling (Season 6)

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This is me, is there any chance I am not including the musical episode on this list? No. No, there is not. It was the first episode I ever watched so it has a special place in my heart for introducing me to the series but it also has singing. I love singing. Despite the revelation at the end, it’s a happy episode. I enjoy it, it gives me nice tummy feelings.

My last special mention goes to both Halloween (Season 2) and Fear, Itself (Season 4) – both Halloween episodes. Other than the three listed above, these are two of my most watched episodes (Becoming part 1 and 2 are also up there). Halloween themed episodes of anything are fab and Buffy is no exception. (Though, Season 6’s Halloween episode left a lot to be desired – it being the episode before Once More With Feeling only served to make the musical stand out more, so I can forgive it.)

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Happy Birthday, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – thank you for being one of the constants in my life. You are truly wonderful.

Did you ever watch Buffy? Did you love it? If you haven’t watched it, why not? I’m curious.