Victoria by Julia Baird

In preparation for the new PBS Masterpiece series “Victoria” (PBS Masterpiece: Victoria), through Net Galley I picked up an advanced copy of the Victoria biography by Julia Baird.


Victoria by Julia Baird

Now, I know a lot about the Tudor reign in England, and have read a copious amount of books regarding Queen Elizabeth I.  Victoria was never something I thought I’d be interested in.  The Victorian Era is somewhat prevalent in books, and it’s also a distinct style of living that we still use to describe things today.  The Victorian Era was epitomized by a moral standard and behavior, but there was a large groundswell of change too.  This is when the Women’s suffrage movement started to gain traction, and labor groups succeeded in protecting workers more than they had in the past.  Less child workers, less hours of women and children, and a relative peace across the Empire.

I mean, this is how “we” picture Queen Victoria:


But she ascended the throne at a young age which is portrayed in the PBS show by Jenna Coleman (from Doctor Who!)


Victoria was never supposed to be Queen, but at a young age her Grandfather, Father, and Uncles all met fates that thrust her into the line of succession.  Even though women weren’t considered strong enough for many careers, Victoria met the challenges head on and thrust herself into the day to day managing of her empire.  Even after marrying the love of her life, Prince Albert (a cousin), she continued to be an active member in her government.  The book touches on how she tried to defer to Albert as much as possible, but still kept her spark as much as possible.  Even after his death, she continued on for many decades after.  The book discusses her deep depression after losing her husband, and how she slowly started to ease back into running her Empire.  She was very involved in Military campaigns, even at the expense of fighting her own Prime Ministers.

She eschewed normal standards, and even brought in a trusted advisor from Scotland in which many people thought she was having an affair.  In truth, he was just her closest friend and confidant.  After her death, her family tried to erase him from Victoria’s history.  Luckily, Baird finds enough to show how deep their connection was.  So deep in fact, that when she died, she asked to be buried with his picture and a lock of his hair.

Queen Victoria was a fascinating figure in history, and I’m glad I finally learned more about her.  Hopefully the show doesn’t use too much dramatic license because her life is plenty dramatic as it was.

The Girl from the Savoy: A Novel by Hazel Gaynor

I’ve been wanting to write about this one for a while.  I started following Hazel Gaynor on twitter (@HazelGaynor) a while ago, based on the title of her book alone.  As an avowed Anglophile who would love to live in England/London, I fall in love with most books set in the English countryside or in the bustling city of London.  I’ve even more attracted to London in the late 19th century/early 20th century.  For some reason, that time period in England has always captured my imagination.


The Girl from the Savoy: A Novel by Hazel Gaynor

So, when I heard that this book was set after the “Great War” (WWI for those that aren’t as well versed in the language), in the glitziest hotel in London at the time, I knew it was right up my alley.  I also had another little connection to the Savoy.  When the family took a trip to London to see the start of the Tour de France (either in 08 or 10….I can’t really remember), our hotel was actually near/across from the Savoy.  I was trying to find my pictures, but they are locked somewhere in the cloud or in a hard drive that I can’t find.  So, sorry, just take my word for it.

Anyway.  The story follows the story of a young woman who leaves the countryside of England to pursue a dream of breaking into the theater.  We learn she had a beau who went off to the Great War and in the beginning we aren’t really sure what happened to him over there.  Throughout the book, we get glimpses of their life in the past through letters and a twist at the end brought tears to my eyes.  In fact, there are two major story lines that brought tears to my eyes.  But no spoilers.

So, Dolly transitions from work in a household to the glamorous hotel Savoy.  Still very Downton Abbey like with hierarchies and rules of engagement with guests (the upper classes).  She meets a musician by accident, and through a classified ad becomes his “muse” and enters the orbit of his glamorous actress sister who decides to take Dolly under her wing.  Very “My Fair Lady” without all the vocal lessons.

I couldn’t put the book down, and I was rooting for Dolly the whole time.  Several times I got nervous that she wouldn’t be able to talk her way out of something, but she had the resiliency and pluck (such a good word from back in the day to use) to overcome.  As I said, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ending was happy, but also a bit surprising.  I definitely thought it was going to go one way, and it zigged in another way.  Which personally I find exciting!

And, just as an update…there are no updates!  Still waiting on responses from queries!