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.

Review: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones

The year is 1750.

Meet Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine.

His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing. He is on a quest to cut through superstition with the brilliant blade of science.

Meet Tristan Hart, madman and deviant.

His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. He is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his days and nights.

Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist.

What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?

This book was difficult. I had trouble with this book. I am normally a speedy reader, I can get through books rather quickly but not this one. Not because I didn’t like it (though, I spent a good chunk of the novel despising Tristan Hart) but because of the style it is written in. I could perhaps have been quicker if it were just the ‘mine heart’s and ‘mine head’s but I found the Seemingly Random capitalisation Hard to Deal With. I had to take a few days to process the novel in between chunks of reading. It was quite Distracting as You Might expect. Though, I do understand the reasoning behind it, to appear similar to texts released during the 1700s – it manages this marvelously.

I was drawn to The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones due to the promise of darkness and folklore. I was not disappointed, it is a very dark book, rife with visions of changelings and transmorphing gypsies. It deals with pain and pleasure, with anatomy and identity, and delusions; it was hard, at times, to tell what was real and what was not.

This book was intriguing, perhaps the best way to describe it. It moves at quite a slow pace, with lots to take in. You really have to sit down and read it, it’s not one of those books you can read while on an exercise bike or a running machine (I tried and failed at the former). While it wasn’t a quick read or a book in which I absolutely had to read on and on until I’d finished, I did want to know what happened. I never found myself tempted to put it away to attempt to read again later rather than finish in the first read through – when I first started reading I wasn’t sure that this would be the case but once I got over thinking badly of Tristan Hart (he seemed less pompous as the book progressed), I knew I was going to finish it.

There is a twist at the end, I will not tell you what that twist is but I will tell you it was among my favourite parts of the novel, alongside the storytelling employed by Katherine in her letters and Tristan’s exploration of goblins. I am glad I stuck with it.

If you like rather a lot of darkness, enjoy folklore and historical fiction, you might want to give this a try. I’m going to need a rather large break before I read this book again but I do intend to – there are most definitely things I will have missed while trying to get my head around the writing style.