Last year I was "the expert" on books about food and travel. This year, I am the expert of nothing! However, I would LIKE to become an expert on the Victorian era.
The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt, is one of my favorite movies of all time, and watching that film is really what got me interested in the Victorian time period and one of history's most famous monarchs.
While I've collected a few nonfiction books about Victoria, her family and the historical period in general, I've only just begun to read. My first selection for Nonfiction November is Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard.
A while back I read a fantastic non-fiction book, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies, by J.B. West, in which the Chief Usher recounted his years in service and his interactions with the first families. It was such a fascinating way to get to know the country's leadership and daily goings-on through close onlookers and those in service. I figure I can't go wrong learning more about Victoria in a similar manner.
For some, royal employment was the defining experience of their lives; for others it came as an unwelcome duty or as a prelude to greater things. Serving Victoria follows the lives of six members of her household, from the governess to the royal children, from her maid of honor to her chaplain and her personal physician.
Another book on my stacks that I really should read is Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria, by Julia P. Gelardi. I picked it up at a book sale years ago, and here it sits! I really am interested, there are just so many books screaming at me from the shelves!
Here are the stories of Alexandra, whose faith in Rasputin and tragic end have become the stuff of legend; Marie, the flamboyant and eccentric queen who battled her way through a life of intrigues and was also the mother of two Balkan queens and of the scandalous Carol II of Romania; Victoria Eugenie, Spain’s very English queen who, like Alexandra, introduced hemophilia into her husband’s family---with devastating consequences for her marriage; Maud, King Edward VII’s daughter, who was independent Norway’s reluctant queen; and Sophie, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s much maligned sister, daughter of an emperor and herself the mother of no less than three kings and a queen, who ended her days in bitter exile.
Sounds like a juicy soap opera, doesn't it?
Finally, I have a few new books on my shelves and on my wishlist. It's really hard for me to separate my interest in Victoria's life and the Victorian era in general. Sounds reasonable, right? I think so. I'm a sucker for books that take a look at the minutia of everyday life. Whether it's historical fiction or nonfiction, if I can dig in and imagine myself living in another time and place, I'm happy. That's what I'm hoping to get out of How to Be a Victorian, by Ruth Goodman.
I've seen this book around for the longest time. It was actually released in 2013, I believe, but there's been a reboot of the cover, and it's come out in hardcover in 2014.
How To Be A Victorian is a new approach to history, a journey back in time more intimate, personal, and physical than anything before. It is one told from the inside out--how our forebears interacted with the practicalities of their world--and it's a history of those things that make up the day-to-day reality of life, matters so small and seemingly mundane that people scarcely mention them in their diaries or letters. Moving through the rhythm of the day, from waking up to the sound of a knocker-upper man poking a stick at your window, to retiring for nocturnal activities, when the door finally closes on twenty-four hours of life, this astonishing guide illuminates the overlapping worlds of health, sex, fashion, food, school, work, and play.
RIGHT??? Are you salivating, too, or do you think I'm crazy? Either way, I'm gonna give it a go!
Do you have any Victorian recommendations? In truth, I love it all, so you can recommend fiction or nonfiction in the comments if you're feeling generous.