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Victoria: A Life

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,371 ratings  ·  240 reviews
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, she had ruled for nearly sixty-four years. She was a mother of nine and grandmother of forty-two and the matriarch of royal Europe through her children’s marriages. To many, Queen Victoria is a ruler shrouded in myth and mystique, an aging, stiff widow paraded as the figurehead to an all-male imperial enterprise. But in truth, Britain's lo ...more
Hardcover, 656 pages
Published October 23rd 2014 by Penguin Press (first published September 4th 2014)
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Emily Houlis I wish it had talked more about her personal life and less about her prime ministers/secretaries of state/etc. I felt like it jumped around a lot and …moreI wish it had talked more about her personal life and less about her prime ministers/secretaries of state/etc. I felt like it jumped around a lot and a more chronological approach would have been clearer. Also, translations of foreign phrases and explanations of who people were would have been helpful.(less)
Mntnmama Yes. Dull, dry, disjointed but throughly well researched

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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting and exhaustive biography of Queen Victoria.

I sought this out because I've long been fascinated by Victoria and Prince Albert, and also by the 19th century. Born in 1819 and living for 81 years, Victoria experienced a truly amazing period of history. The vast expansion of the British Empire. The Industrial Revolution. Not to mention the incredible amount of art and music and literature that was created in the 1800s.

Sidenote: I recently visited England, and apparently I'm no
Laurel Hicks
There are some very long books that I wish would never end. This is not one of them.
Oct 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: vine, non-fiction
I was a little disappointed in A.N. Wilson's Victoria: A Life. Okay, I was a lot disappointed, because I was hoping to get some new insight into the life of Victoria. In writing this book, Wilson had access to Victoria's writings and other documents from the era to which other biographers have not been privy. However, I found that Wilson's writing tended to be jumpy and disjointed-- a timeline, genealogical chart, and cast of characters would have been immensely helpful in getting through this b ...more
Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)
DNF somewhere around 70%

I'm really starting to doubt that I even like Victoria. Her life is a jumbled mess. She feels sorry for herself throughout her life, and I hate people who do that. Especially when they have pretty damn good lives except for minor things. Then, there's her gossipy years. And her years where she's being controlled by Albert. Or various other men since she almost constantly seemed to need that. Also, pretty sexist woman.

So, either I don't like Victoria or I don't like how sh
Richard Thomas
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I finished this with a great deal of regret as it is to me a masterly biography of someone who combined a great deal of empathy and humanity with being a monstre sacre of sublime selfishness. He doesn't hide her many faults and examines the rumours of her marriage to John Brown with the right degree of scepticism but finds her fascinating and intelligent.
Aug 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: victoria, history, ww1
Sloppy, disjointed and rather dismissive in parts, but revealing nonetheless. Concurrently in reading this book, I also watched several documentaries on Victoria and her children, and it's interesting the many different takes people have on her character and reign. I chose this book to read, because it was the largest, and I hoped the most comprehensive, but I think back to the drawing board. If anything, this book seemed to be mostly centered around Victoria's relations with her prime ministers ...more
Victoria has been a magnet for biographical rereading in the eleven decades since her death. In the 1990s academic scholars got hold of the Queen and the results were a post structuralist Victoria. It is now twenty years since the last serious flurry of biographical interest. Wilson picks up the pieces and puts the jigsaw back together again, creating in the process a Victoria for our own time.

Wilson went to the archives in Sax-Coburg and reconnected the taproot of Victoria and Albert’s plan for
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I went into this book without much knowledge of Queen Victoria outside of a few general details. I have not read anything else that focuses on the woman, but I can't help but feel that this book does not do her justice.

It is a dry read, and one that skips around in strangely disjointed ways. Wilson does not handle transitions with any grace, and tangential information is thrown in willy-nilly in a way that rather jarringly interrupts the narrative. (I occasionally found myself backtracking to b
Daniel Kukwa
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Victoria's reign is far too long, and too detailed to have a single, definitive biography. But if you're looking for something to act as an ideal survey-course-between-two-covers, then you won't go wrong reading this surprisingly detailed yet surprisingly easy-to-read epic. A story of Victoria's reign more than Victoria the person, it does offer incredible insights into her psychological make-up...and some fascinating observations about her relationships with her family, friends, and enemies. Ex ...more
Eva Scalzo
I got the ARC via Penguin's First to Read program. The subject of this book is fascinating, the structure of the book could have been improved. At points there was so much trivial information being thrown at the reader, some of it as an aside, that what place and time being discussed was hard to figure out. The book doesn't uncover all the mysteries Queen Victoria left behind, at certain points she is still a puzzle, and because her children did their best to censor and hide the more salacious p ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Dense and, to be honest, rather dull. Focuses rather heavily on the politics of the era and the author comes off as dismissive of Victoria more often than not. I listened to this on audio and it was easy to lose track of Victoria's eleventy-billion relations - although it was interesting in hindsight to see how the various family squabbles and resistance to reform (in some quarters) led us down the nightmare path that became World War I (and later World War II).

A decent research book, and author
Phyllis Duncan)
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best biographies of any person I've ever read, and I've read a great many. The author weaves in a clear history--social, economic, and political--of the periods of Victoria's life. It is difficult to keep track of her children, their spouses, her grandchildren, etc., because of the propensity to repeat names over generations. I disagree with the author's conclusion that she was mentally ill in the 1860s and 70s--I think that's a male reaction to what was surely the time of her ...more
Andrew Niederhauser
Apr 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Less a biography of Victoria than a biography of the Victorian Age, the authors tendency to analyze Victoria's personality is often tedious and repetitious. I believe this was intended either for scholars well versed in the specifics of Victoria and her age, or perhaps an English/British audience already conversant with the details of the era. Overall a pleasing work, but one that leaves much to be desired regarding Victoria's family life, children, and the specific role of Albert and her "favor ...more
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this idiosyncratic, affectionate portrait of the monarch whose personality dominated my favorite era. It's definitely aimed at those already familiar with the Victorian age--I wouldn't recommend it as the first Victoria biography you read, and Wilson makes few concessions to readers from other countries who might sometimes wonder what on earth he's talking about, so densely British is his Britishness.

As a reader who feels at home in the nineteenth century, though, I got a lot out of th
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
A Comprehensive View of Queen Victoria's Life

Queen Victoria was a complex woman. One of the strengths of Wilson's biography is that through the use of her letters and journals he is able to show us the internal life of the Queen.

Victoria was married, presumably happily, to Prince Albert. They produced nine children, and his death left her prostrate. Albert was a strict Victorian husband treating Victoria often as a child and using severe methods to raise the children. Although Victoria loved Al
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This seems to be a well-researched book giving a three-dimensional portrayal of Queen Victoria as a complex person with both good and bad qualities, and it recounts the important facts of her life and her family, including the often brilliant Prince Albert. The author has an obvious fascination with his subject that makes this book eminently readable. I had not read much about Queen Victoria before, so I don't have much to compare it to.

Some of the details were hard to grasp for a U.S. reader w
Louise Culmer
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Quite an interesting biography of Queen Victoria. There is a lot of detail about the politics of her reign, less about her personally. I would have liked to see more detail about some things- for instance, although Wilson mentions in his introduction that Victoria had a good sense of humour, there are very few examples given in the book. Not much is said about her great love of music - for instance there is mention of the Queen attending a concert by Jenny Lind without any mention of the great a ...more
Mary Ann
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, biography
"What fools we mortals be!" The "great" Victorian age - hanging by a broken branch or a young green leaf throughout Victoria's reign.....Oh so British! Oh so mundane! Those are my words, not those of the biographer, who was really very tolerant of the Queen for most of the book. The strongest impression I had at the end was the astonishingly high level of incompetence shared by many of the queen's acquaintances, advisors, children and government officials. Not Prince Albert, not Brown, not her s ...more
Hans Ostrom
A solid, relatively new biography, backed by very good research and an understanding of the labyrinthine networks of European monarchies and oligarchies of the time. The one glaring omission is a discussion of what King Leopold of Belgium (Victoria's uncle) was doing in the Congo at the time: namely, directing one of the most depraved, inhuman, murderous, and rapacious colonialist projects on record. Leopold was responsible for 8-10 million deaths in the Congo--genocide of holocaust proportions. ...more
Sara Lilkas
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I thought the book was really interesting, however I was still rather disappointed. It was heavily researched and the author was clearly interested in the topic, but it read more as a history text that then told you what Victoria was doing while all this other stuff happened. At times it was disjointed and jumped around a lot, so if you were not already familiar with the history of the period it could be difficult to follow. There were however some insights into who the Queen was and some insigh ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was a little hard to follow at times, seemed like it jumped about some. Otherwise very informative, very interesting... Victoria strikes me as having been a foolish, stubborn and unwise ruler and her much maligned husband is the one who enacted all the good and wonderful things that are so attributed to the wonderful "Victorian" age of art and enlightenment. I think, by the end of the book I wasn't sure if I should pity or just greatly dislike her.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
Very boring, strangely uninformative book.
The author seems to assume a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader, so he doesn't explain basic things. For example, he notes that she had a strange education and was poorly prepared to be queen, but doesn't describe what her education involved. He says her and Albert's project was to revive and strengthen the monarchy, but he doesn't explain the role of the monarchy in England in that period.
I gave up after about 150 pages.
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Near the end of this, I was just excited for the digital library loan to expire so I could quit listening to it. Despite copious details, I still had to use Wikipedia to clarify what was going on. Also, the author didn't seem to like Victoria very much, which made the whole book dull. I think I just like watching "The Young Victoria" better.
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If anyone could successfully take up the task of making Victoria's story new, surprising, and fresh, it's Wilson. In this he succeeds on all levels by focusing on Victoria's greatest and most lasting relationship: that with her pen and paper. A truly moving portrait.
Sue Bentley
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an oddly structured book about a fascinating and peculiar little woman in a bonnet. There is plenty of really interesting content that paints the Victorian world in great detail with all the complex nuances of the time. Queen Victoria had a morbid turn of mind, a deep streak of obsessive puritanical thinking and a deep, inborn and overwhelming belief that she is always right. These three strong characteristics where also those of the whole Victorian age, she really was both a reflection ...more
Jordan McKay
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This biography is actually pretty astounding in its scope. Not only do you get a great sense of Queen Victoria's personality, but you also get a general political history of 19th century Britain. As the book details her innumerable family members, British politicians, continental rulers etc etc - from what seemingly is just a biography of one woman, emerges a book covering most major events in European and British history from the Parliamentary Reform Act of the early 30s to the Boer War in the ...more
Desiree M ~*~*~ LiveReadCollect
DNF @5%

Not going to rate this since I read sooooo little of it.

Tried listening to it on audio and I didn't love the audio, first of all. It wasn't bad but there were some aspects of the audio that had already started to annoy me.

And secondly there was so much bouncing around when it came to events that I was getting confused quickly. There would be a bit of info about Victoria before or right at the start of her reign and then in the next couple sentences it was post her death. If it had only
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This took me forever to read but not because I didn’t love it! This was so well written and reminded me how much I love historical biographies especially ones about English monarchs. Victoria was a rather interesting woman and I’m glad to have learned a lot more about her I didn’t know previously.
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: annie
Be forewarned, Victoria: A Life is not for anyone looking for an intimate biography of Queen Victoria. It is rather, as the publisher described it, a "definitive biography" that I found to be unsatisfying. As with any book that attempts to cover 81 years of, essentially, British history, Wilson made choices about what to include and with how much detail she would describe events. Unfortunately, I felt that the much of Victoria’s personal life was sacrificed in order to paint a more detailed pict ...more
Nadhiah Aida
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
wow .... need to let go her life story ..
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Andrew Norman Wilson is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer.

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“The extreme paradox arose that one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous and unconventional women who ever lived was paraded before the public as a stiff, pompous little person, the ‘figurehead’ to an all-male imperial enterprise. This” 1 likes
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