November 13, 2019

Book Review - Victoria: Portrait of a Queen by Catherine Reef

Victoria: Portrait of a Queen

by Catherine Reef

Genres: Young Adult, Biography, Nonfiction, British History
Publisher: Clarion Books
Length: 256 pages
Published: November 7, 2017
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Official Book Summary:

"Catherine Reef brings history vividly to life in this sumptuously illustrated account of a confident, strong-minded, and influential woman.

Victoria woke one morning at the age of eighteen to discover that her uncle had died and she was now queen. She went on to rule for sixty-three years, with an influence so far-reaching that the decades of her reign now bear her name—the Victorian period. Victoria is filled with the exciting comings and goings of royal life: intrigue and innuendo, scheming advisors, and assassination attempts, not to mention plenty of passion and discord. Includes bibliography, notes, British royal family tree, index."

Excerpt (from Chapter One):

"If another princess had not died tragically and young, Victoria would have never been born.

The ill-fated princess was Charlotte. She was the only child of the prince regent, the man who occupied the British throne. The prince was ruling in place of his father, King George III, who had been deemed mentally ill. Upon his father's death, the prince regent would be crowned King George IV. Charlotte was twenty-one years old on November 6, 1817, when she delivered a stillborn son. Within hours hse sickened, and soon Charlotte too was dead.

The English people had loved the princess. 'She stood on high,' wrote a newspaperman. Charlotte had embodied 'images of young, and promise, and blooming womanhood.' Eighteen months before, the public had rejoiced in Charlotte's marriage to handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. They had felt secure knowing that she would reign one day, upon her father's death, all in good time."

My Book Review:

In Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, Catherine Reef presents an illustrated biography of Queen Victoria adapted to young adult audiences.

Though compared to other more exhaustive biographies of Victoria Reef's text is short and simplified, it is nonetheless a helpful starter for interested readers. Reef undoubtedly did an extensive amount of research before composing her text. While some aspects of Victoria's personal life, political views, and public perception are a bit more complicated and nuanced that what is presented, these are likely areas of Victoria's biography that are not of key importance to young adult readers.

Reef paints a clear portrait that helps her audience understand the significant role Victoria played in the nineteenth century. She does well explaining the unique position Victoria was in when she inherited the throne from her uncle at age eighteen, and shares details about Victoria's courtship with her cousin, Albert, their marriage, and her position as the queen.

I would recommend this book to any young adult audience who has an interest in women's history and biography. Victoria is a fascinating and complex figure, and it's exciting that Reef has composed this text with a young audience in mind.


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