Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A week of reviews day two (Prisoner in the Palace)

Prisoners in the Palace: how princess Victoria became Queen with the help of her maid, a reporter, and a scoundrel by Michaela MacColl

I liked this book. I really did. Unfortunately for the book, I watched the film Young Victoria about a month ago. Just weeks ago I was so clueless about Victoria's life that I would have found this story riveting. Having just seen the film that follows the same period of time, the thunder was stolen a little from the book.

It's a shame.

If I'd realized it, I would have read the book first, and then watched the film.
The books covers Victoria from 17 until 18. The film goes from the 17-year old Victoria until about age 20.

If you haven't seen/read either, do read the book first and then see the film. I think you'll enjoy them both.

So, I knew what was coming, which took a little steam away from the book. That being said, I really liked the book.

It is a fictionalized version of the early events in Victoria's life-- and she led a fascinating life. She was in line to become Queen after her Uncle, the King (her father died when she was a child). She was raised by her mother, who in turn was controlled in many ways by Sir John Conroy-- a real-life villain.We get an inside view of the events through the eyes of Eliza-- a girl who is on the cusp of merchant class/upper class when her parents are killed tragically. With few prospects Eliza changes course, gives up her dreams of marrying as a lady, and goes with the next best option: working as a ladies maid for the Queen. She's actually quite lucky to get such an opportunity. Through Eliza we get to experience this year in Victoria's life.

Of course we know Victoria for what she became-- we know she was a successful Queen who grew the British Empire in an incredible way. The glorification of that empire is debatable, and personally I feel that a lot of the problems around the world today are the direct result of Colonialism.The entire continent of Africa continues to suffer the repercussions of decades of colonial-era extraction.

Regardless, she is considered a success story, and by the rules of the day built the empire in an important and enviable way.

It is amazing to recognize who she became as compared to the way she was raised.

I thought the book was well-researched, and an interesting way to take that story and turn it into a YA novel. But for me the luster of the book was stolen a bit because I knew too much about how it would all turn out. I have read and enjoyed Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart mysteries, and I found myself comparing this to those books. This book didn't quite have the zazz of a Sally mystery, but again, I think knowing the ending really took away from the story for me.

I am also still really curious (after both the film and the book) about Victoria's childhood. I would love to know more about how that shaped who she became.

Have you read it? What did you think? Did you see Young Victoria?

Any opinions on colonialism or Victoria in general?


  1. Hmm, I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this one sounds pretty interesting...

  2. I loved the Young Victoria. Have you watched Victoria and Albert? It's great.

  3. I've not read the book but am adding to my TBR. I really enjoyed the film.

  4. This sounds interesting. I'm not a huge fan of historicals and I'm more partial to Queen Elizabeth I, but I will keep an eye out for it.

    Thanks for the review!

  5. This sounds like a good read, I don't know much about Queen Vic (and I'm a Brit, what can I say, school was all about showing Henry VIII and Elizabeth I the love) so I'd be interested to see how she was raised as the heir considering he was her uncle.
    - Sophia.


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