Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Catherine Reef. 2017. [November] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

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

Premise/plot: Catherine Reef has written a lovely biography of Queen Victoria. Readers hoping to learn more about Victoria, her personal and public life--what she was like as a Sovereign, a wife, a mother, a grandmother--will likely not be disappointed. The book isn't exclusively about Queen Victoria; it is also about the times in which she lived: the industrial revolution, the (much-needed) reforms, the wars.

My thoughts: I loved this biography. I just wish that there had been biographies like this one when I was growing up. Not just the subject matter--though that is part of the appeal to me now--but the style and layout. So many illustrations, colored illustrations, even full-page illustrations--this one is packed with appeal.

Victoria is presented as thoroughly human; she's not presented as the world's worst mother nor as a saint. The truth is Victoria was far from perfect--she was not a saintly, well-tempered wife; she was not a sweet, gentle, nurturing mother. Anyone looking for absolute perfection will be disappointed in any honest presentation of Victoria. 

I found the book to be fascinating. It is just the right length--especially for the audience. It isn't too short; it isn't too long. There are biographies that are easily three times as long, more comprehensive and thorough. I appreciate that it covers a little bit about all of her life: not just her difficult childhood, not just her early years as Queen, not just the golden age of a golden age.

I read this one while watching--or "watching"--the season two premiere of Victoria on PBS. I have a love/hate relationship with the show. I really do. But I did not have a love/hate relationship with Reef's biography.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Joy Weese Moll said...

I think I'd like this, too. I also thing biographies from young people are much improved from when I was that age. I especially love well-illustrated books.