Monday, November 10, 2014

#NonficNov: Become the Expert!


Week 2 of Nonfiction November is hosted by the lovely Leslie of Regular Rumination.

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. 









22 comments:

  1. I haven't read anything about Victorian life or historical figures, but How to Be a Victorian sounds like such a fun read!

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  2. Born to Rule sounds great.
    I read a book that you might be interested in called Servants by Lucy Lethbridge that talks about the lives of English servants during all periods but definitely during Victorian times.

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  3. So many people love that time period, but I'm not one of them. :(

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  4. There's a (huge) new biography of Queen Victoria out called "Victoria: A Life" by A.N. Wilson. I've had my eye on this one. Maybe you'd like it, too.

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  5. I am more acquainted with the Elizabethan era in nonfiction, but you gave me a bunch of suggestions to learn more about the Victorian one :D thanks!

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  6. I think I've had my fill on the biography side, but How to Be Victorian sounds fantastic and totally up my alley.

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  7. I'm endlessly fascinated by Victorian era but I haven't read anything other than when doing research on authors of the time (I would love to read a good Dickens biography, too). I'm wondering if Drood would count. LOL! Love the sound of How to be a Victorian!

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  8. OK it's not a book but Mrs Brown, starring the always awesome Judi Dench as Queen Victoria was such a good film! So And yes! Emily Blunt is excellent in most movies but I really liked Young Victoria!

    Wish I had a book recommendation but I can't think of any!

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  9. You should do a Victorian readalong. Because I would so read Born to Rule and How to be a Victorian. And other than the miserable Drood, I can't think of anything I've read lately that would even remotely count as Victorian.

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  10. How To Be a Victorian is on my list already! It sounds fantastic. Your other suggestions sound good too; I'm especially interested in Serving Victoria.

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  11. Interesting topic! I've had Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Diary of a Victorian Lady on my TBR list for over a year now, but haven't gotten to it yet...check it out for me!

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  12. I don't think I've read anything from this time period. So thank you for this mini-list! It may get me started.

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  13. I'm not a huge fan of Victorian anything but I have to admit, How To Be a Victorian sounds really, really interesting!

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  14. The Victorian era isn't really one of my favorite time periods, although I would read How to Be a Victorian because I'm interested in Goodman's approach. As long as you don't have to wear a whalebone corset while you read it!!

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  15. I have so many books from this time period on my shelves that it's a bit disgusting. And I second the idea of a readalong (but make it after Feb. 1 so I am done with my grad class). :)

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  16. Ooh ooh, I think you would enjoy Lucy Worsley's books very much! I just received a copy of her newest that I'm dying to dig into. (The Art of the English Murder)

    I think you'd really like If Walls Could Talk and /or The Courtiers https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/541690.Lucy_Worsley

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  17. I can't believe that I still have only seen part of The Young Victoria. I'm not even sure how to watch it without buying it so I may just have to jump straight into the books until I figure it out. She fascinates me. While I'm at it, I'm also adding Upstairs in the White House to my list.

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  18. What a great topic, I love this list of books. I think I would like to learn how to be Victorian too!

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  19. I've read a lot of Victorian fiction, but not so much non-fiction (ie none!) Although a bio on Charles Darwin would cover this period I guess.

    There was another great movie about Queen Vic after Albert's death, called Mrs Brown. I'mnot sure how factual it was in the end, but it was a marvellous story nonetheless.

    http://bronasbooks.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/my-year-in-non-fiction.html

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  20. Ohhh, I could definitely fall down this rabbit hole!

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  21. How to Be A Victorian sounds great. Thank you for sharing your list!

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  22. I'd like to be an expert of the Victorian Era too! I haven't read any nonfiction about the era so far, but I've enjoyed some fiction set in that time period.

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