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Valentine Grey

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  341 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
London 1897 and a young girl, Valentine Grey, arrives in England. She's been brought up in the remote and sunny climes of India and finds being forced into corsets and skirts in damp and cold country insufferable. The only bright spot: her exciting cousin, Reggie.


Reggie, and his lover Frank seek out the adventure the clandestine bars and streets of London offer and are ha
...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 5th 2012 by Virago (first published September 1st 2012)
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Jonathan
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good novel from Sandi Toksvig, centered around the Boer War, and the part played in it by the title character as she leaves London in place of her cousin Reggie, disguised as a soldier. There have been enough known real examples of women who have gone to war in such a manner that any disbelief can be dismissed quite readily.

Valentine journeys to England from India where she has been raised by her father, only to receive the news that an earthquake has led to his death. So she stays with
...more
kymdotcom
Feb 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: virago, 2014
More drama than the Kardashians. Although even they couldn't compete with the dead duck and the resulting scene.
Max Fincher
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Valentine Grey is the eponymous hero/heroine of Sandi Toksvig's informative and moving novel set during the second Boer War (1898-1902) in both London and South Africa.

The Boer war is depicted with a convincing realism by Toksvig. Although Toksvig seems to embody a certain kind of 'British' humour, and is described by some as a 'national treasure', she is of course Danish. I sensed that her interest in the Boer War, particularly as an example of British nationalism, was partly due to her own se
...more
Samantha
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
I must disagree with a previous reviewer, I'm afraid. I consider myself a reasonably well-educated adult with an 'A' Level in history, but my knowledge of the Boer War was limited to dates and a few general impressions. Wasn't on my syllabus! Anyway, I found this book interesting and entertaining. Valentine is an engaging character, pushing against the restraints of late 19th century society, as is her cousin Reggie. However, it is the war itself which becomes a character for me. The futility an ...more
Fiona
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
I wanted to enjoy this more than I did. It's certainly very well researched and well written but, for me, it felt like an educational novel for young adults, not for grown ups. Teenagers would learn so much about the idiocy and travesties of the Boer War, the position of women and gay men in England circa 1900, but surely most well educated adults know all this already? As a consequence, I got bored with it by 2/3rds of the way through and finished it only to find out how it would end and not fo ...more
Emily
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Gave up at chapter 3...
Graeme Aitken
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is a wealth of fiction set against the backdrop of WWI (Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong, Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End ) so it is infinitely refreshing to read something different – Valentine Grey is set against the second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. The war isn’t as well known as other major conflicts of the last century; nor is it widely known that the British tactics included the early use of concentration camps.
The novel focuses on three ma
...more
Johanne
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting. Its about time someone related the horrors of the Boer war - it had so many hideous firsts including the first use of concentration camps. The description of the horrors that the largely volunteer army went through are eye-opening. As is is the reminder that wars are generally over power, resources and wealth; whoever actually lives there is just a background inconvenience. There are no good guys in this story - individual Boers and British are decent but neither care about t ...more
Lucy Raby
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fabulous story about a young Victorian girl who is orphaned. She has grown up in India where her father has a plantation. She comes to live with her straitlaced aunt and uncle in London. She loves her cousin Reggie who is gay when it was the love that dare not speak its name and takes his place as a volunteer in the Boer War. Incredibly well researched, (Sandi's bibliography is staggering and includes letters and diaries at the British Museum as well as history books) it deals effortlessly and ...more
CF
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A moving and touching story of life in the late Victorian period. The Boer war is raging, and Valentine, fresh from India, has the pleasure of meeting her jovial and bright cousin Reggie. Her Uncle, who is stoic but well meaning, in the heat of the patriotism from the war, makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

A beautiful and tragically sad tale that is so visual, I kept thinking how well it would adapt to a BBC mini-series. I'd love to watch this. Toksvig's style is so detailed
...more
Erica
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Most of Valentine Grey is set in the time of the Boer War (1899-1902). Although I have read other books by Sandi Toksvig, I read this book as I have had an interest in the Boer War since finding out that my great grandfather fought in the war and was captured at Klip River. Sandi mentions in her book that she wrote Valentine Grey as she feels there is not enough coverage of the Boer War in comparison to the First and Second World Wars, and I have certainly found this to be the case when doing ba ...more
Kit Goode
I wanted to like this book! the premise is interesting and especially Valentine's chapters are harrowing. However it just... isn't written very well. There are pacing issues, especially with Reggie's story. I honestly think the book would have been much more strong if his chapters had been cut, and then more time given to him and Valentine catching up on her return home. The shifting between the two perspectives wasn't great, and I felt more connection between Sarel and Valentine then I did Regg ...more
Robin
Nov 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Having read Hitler's Canary by same the author, which was brilliant, I have been very disappointed by this book.

It is far too stagy and contrived and the story as it unfolds on the veldt of South Africa becomes ever more grim. I have not quite finished the book yet but there is little sign of any redemption of any of the characters so far. I might add that all the characters are slightly unbelievable and the book is continually drab and bleak and increasingly I wonder why I am reading this as it
...more
Justin Neville
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Perhaps even 4.5 stars.
Without wanting to spoil the story in any way, I will just comment on the general reading experience. It starts off very lightweight with some predictable and unsophisticated characterisations, and the seeming implausibilities in the plot start to pile up.

However, if you stick with it and go with the flow, you (or at least I) soon become gripped, involved, educated, entertained and, most of all, moved. What more could you want?

I've had enough of over-ambitious historical n
...more
Dew Yothanant
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-for-uni
I was assigned to read this book in English Reading Skill course. At first, I don't really like it. I found the book very boring. The narration just goes on and on and on with no twist and turn, no up and down for the first half of the book. However, in the second half, the book has become much more interesting. This book has to be read more than one. At first glance, it seems like a typical YA historical novel but if you read it carefully, there're many hidden messages, symbols and issues that ...more
Angie
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
An insight into the 2nd Boer War and into difficulties of being a homosexual at the turn of the 20th century. These 2 aspects are brought together when Valentine, female cousin to gay Reginald, decides to take his place as a soldier enlisted for fighting in Africa. While Valentine deals with the difficulties of keeping her sexuality hidden plus the horrors she faces in fighting on the veldt, Reggie fights his own private war trying to keep his homosexual relationship hidden as well as dealing wi ...more
Penny
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book about Valentine Grey who went to fight in the Boer war instead of her cousin. She was a very strong brave woman, who endured the hardships, terrors and privation and suffering that wars inevitably bring. She fought alongside the men without detection (she thought!) and proved herself to be every bit as capable as them.
It shows the absolute futility of war, but also shows us that it was the ordinary South African that paid for the British pig headedness about being this
...more
Sam Wilkinson
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At almost no point in this book, was it at all what I had expected. Overall, I enjoyed it, although there were one or two scenes which I had to read through twice. The plot twists and turns in unexpected directions almost continuously. Although Valentine is the main protagonist, the book alternates between Valentine's point of view, and Reggie's. This is not a feel-good novel, this is, in parts, a dark novel, but it's depicting a war, not glorious, but dark, dirty, unpleasant, and painful. Which ...more
Sam
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At almost no point in this book, was it at all what I had expected. Overall, I enjoyed it, although there were one or two scenes which I had to read through twice. The plot twists and turns in unexpected directions almost continuously. Although Valentine is the main protagonist, the book alternates between Valentine's point of view, and Reggie's. This is not a feel-good novel, this is, in parts, a dark novel, but it's depicting a war, not glorious, but dark, dirty, unpleasant, and painful. Which ...more
Trish
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A bookclub book I really quite enjoyed. I initially thought it was going to be a jolly-hockeysticks-I-dressed-up-as-a-man-and-had-a-grand-adventure type of book but it was way more than that. The depiction of the Boer War was horrific - and a period of history I knew very little about beyond Breaker Morant ... I really liked the way Toksvig explored themes of freedom, gender, sexuality, war, power while crafting a great read...
Alison Smedley
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book incorporating many issues from the turn of the 20th centrury. I previously knew very little about the Boer war and was quite shocked. The homophobic laws and attitudes as well as the restrictive gender roles were really brought to life by a great cast of characters. Tragic and fascinating in equal measurd
Rachel
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Likable main character, exciting plot and motivating for me as a woman (I don't see myself as a feminist but it made me think about what my predecessors did for me, and challenged me not to unquestioningly accept the status quo). I also learnt about the Boer War for the first time. Gripped by it.
Nadia
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fantastic story. Sandi Toksvig draws you in so that you feel a real affinity with and affection for the main characters. She combines a gripping story with a wealth of well researched historical information about the terrors and politics of the Boer War, attitudes towards women, servants and homosexuality in Victorian England, which is all fascinating stuff.
Sally Power
Jul 06, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting book which tells us more about the times Valentine lived in more than the story itself. A young Victorian orphan girl cuts her hair and signs up as a soldier in the Boer war so that her beloved homosexual cousin doesn't have to. Sometimes quite dark but also very witty in places as you would expect from Sadi Toksvig.
Jennimen
This is an excellent book - I was a bit worried because it's by a celebrity, though I liked the sound of it, but it turns out that Toksvig can write as well, and write thoughtfully, about things that it matters we remember. Her characters and places were alive, and I cared about them - which is what I really look for in a book. Definitely recommended.
Nicole
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much death.

This was a very good read. Well-written, engaging, and easy to suspend my disbelief. Lots of difficult subject matter. Made me think. Not the happy adventure story I was expecting, but well done. Makes me want to learn more about the Boer War and South Africa.
Teresa
May 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
"I enjoyed the strong female lead but she's a strong woman who sounds like she could be from our time...which unfortunately is not what I want from historical fiction written so evocatively as this."
read more: http://likeiamfeasting.blogspot.co.uk...
Dulcie
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Pop literature. Bit of a diversion, nothing more & nothing less.
PeggyFliss
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Somewhat slow to engage me, but it was moving and certainly interesting learning about the Boer war.
Sue Shone
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it
I wanted to like it more than I did. some of the story was just too incredible. The historical detail and misery of war is very well written.
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Danish/British writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer on British radio and television. She currently presents The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 and 1001 Things You Should Know on Channel 4. In October 2012 she succeeded Sheila Hancock as Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.

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