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Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  2,057 ratings  ·  324 reviews
The tall, handsome Abdul Karim was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. An assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, he suddenly found himself a personal attendant to the Empress of India herself. Within a year, he was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen's teacher, or ...more
Hardcover, 223 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by History Press (SC)
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Start your review of Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...I could walk through my garden forever.”

----Alfred Tennyson

Shrabani Basu, an Indian author has penned an honest memoir about a forgotten man who mattered the most in the life of Queen Victoria in her book called, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant. Abdul Karim was just a young man when he first met the British monarch, Queen Victoria and since that day, till the day, the queen died, their friendship stayed inva
I saw the film based on this book last year and really enjoyed it, but I had to wonder how much the screenwriters had fiddled with the facts to make a more engaging film. When I saw that this year’s PopSugar challenge included a category called “Book made into a movie that you’ve already seen,” I immediately knew which book I would be reading.

I was grateful for the author’s footnotes and references—she certainly did her research. I think we all feel we “know” about Queen Victoria, but I found I
The British royal family tried to erase Abdul Karim, Queen Victoria's devoted Hindustani instructor and adviser in Indian affairs (1887-1901) from history, and yet they failed to succeed! This is quite a story! Read about him here.

The book’s content is interesting, and it is great that that which before has been hidden from view is now brought into the open!

Yet the book needs better editing. Portions are tedious. The text is repetitive. Quotes are excessive. For example, the long sentences of U
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I totally enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the interaction of the British royalty regarding the people of India and how Victoria ruled them. I understand this is to be a movie soon and I did find the writing and the experiences portrayed to be engrossing and interesting.

We know so much about Queen Victoria and yet this very important facet of her life has been in a sense under reported. Victoria developed an engrossing relationship with Abdul while incensing her staff, her family and t
☼Book her,   Danno☼
~ review copy provided

~side note #1
Since there is a movie tie-in, you might be misled into thinking that VICTORIA & ABDUL is a historical novel, or something contrived, very much an 'adapted history'. It is Not. This is a solid historical work that has been well researched. It reads like good history, but if you are looking for a dive into the heart and soul of the characters, you might just want to wait for the movie.

~side note #2
What's amazing to me is that someone has found something new to s
Leslie Goddard
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I can easily see why someone who has never heard about the friendship between Victoria and Abdul would find this book so engaging. It WAS an unexpected and fascinating friendship -- the queen's loyalty to him despite her family and staff's extreme dislike for him was truly remarkable. Basu does a commendable job digging into the evidence, even transcribing/translating large portions of what he wrote into journals.

So I was surprised to find at the end that I didn't feel like I really knew this gu
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: india, subcontinent
In about 1886, Queen Victoria acquired a number of paid Indian servants, mostly from Agra. They were employed to serve at her dining tables. She found them interesting and on the whole charming. One of them, Abdul Karim, soon became her favourite. She adopted him as her personal secretary. After a short while, he began teaching her to read, write, and speak Urdu. He became known as the Queen's 'munshi' (secretary or scribe, particularly one with a mastery of many languages). She took lessons dai ...more
Gina *loves sunshine*
This book was very interesting and I enjoyed getting to know the account of Queen Victoria and her entourage. The details of the time period - the customs, the travel from property to property, the staff, the clothes, the hunting, parties, the close relationship between the 2 - all fun stuff to read.

I am sad the characters didn't come more to life, it lacked that emotion coming off the page. I am one of those readers who really needs that extra something to really draw me in when I am reading a
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
•‘A most unusual friendship, one that, however divisive it had been, had brought comfort to a lonely Queen in the twilight years of her reign.’ - Daily Mail
A masterfully told story that is a melange of history, drama and fantasy.’-The Dawn

Quotes from the words of the Queen's beloved Munshi:
• "With the month of June this account of ten years of my life is completed. To me the little book is like the Compound Perfume wherein are gathered and mixed together the scent of many different flowers: and
Have read mlre than half, Not interested in continuing. A friend said the movie bored her, and the book would probably bore me. She was right. Not enough story there to make up a book that takes up my time. Time to cut my losses and move on.
This novel drove me crazy. At first, it was very dry and factual, which was fine with me after two rather stressful horror novels. I was using this novel as a palate cleanser, of sorts.
But the petty jealousies, racism, classism, and bullshit that the *entire* household staff (support and care system) that took care of Queen Victoria drove me absolutely batty. It disgusted me so badly, I couldn’t enjoy the novel at all. I can understand completely why at one point why the Queen got so pissed off,
Nancy H
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book very interesting. I thought it was interesting that Queen Victoria did not seem to harbor within herself the racism that so many of the upper classes in England had at that time. The relationship between herself and her "Munshi" (teacher), which is what she called Abdul, was very interesting and unique for that time period. Reading this book, though, raised many questions in my mind as I read: Was she truly as enlightened as this portrayed her, with regards to the Indian race a ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Victoria and Abdul
By Shrabani Basu

The tall, handsome Abdul Karim was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. An assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, he suddenly found himself a personal attendant to the Empress of India herself. Within a year, he was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen's teacher, or Munshi, and instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs. Devastated by the death of John Br
Kelly Furniss
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly fascinating study of one of the most controversial friendships within the royal family.
The author tells the story well with the injection of pictures, paintings and attention to historical detail whilst also making you think about the racism, class and political divisions within the family at the time. I really routed for Queen Victoria as she faced constant opposition and backlash from those around her.
Upon the Queens death the actions taken to remove Abdul and his family from the Coun
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‘Victoria and Abdul: The Story of The Queen’s Closest Confidant’ by Shrabani Basu, was a fascinating read about an aging monarch and her closest confidant.
Two Indians, Abdul Karim and Mohammed Buksh were summoned by the British Empire to present a ‘Mohor’ to the Queen. Upon presentation of which Abdul Karim catches the attention of the Queen and is immediately hired as her personal servant. And this marks the beginning of one of the most controversial and myst
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
By the time Queen Victoria started the last decade of her life, she had lost her beloved Prince Albert in 1861 and her Scottish personal servant, John Brown, in 1883- many people speculated that she and Brown were secretly married, they were so close. She was a sad and lonely woman. Then, unexpectedly, she found a new friend: Abdul Karim, from India.

He arrived as part of a contingent of Indians, a gift, as it were, to her for her Golden Jubilee. While a number of high ranking Indians visited En
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well, this was a surprise.

Victoria and Abdul was April's selection for our office book club, much to the chagrin of most of our office book club. We let one of our less enthused members pick April's book, you see. We thought it would encourage them to be more involved. That's how I ended up within a country mile of Victoria and Abdul. I can't say I would've found my way to this book otherwise. Works of historical non-fiction about Queen Victoria isn't exactly high on my to-read list. I wholehear
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm not a history buff but I couldn't put this book down. Basu writes in an accessible manner. She writes candidly about their friendship - though unlike the Royal Household, she is entirely sympathetic - and and includes letters and telegrams whenever possible. The story of Abdul Karim and Victoria is fascinating - I still have trouble believing it happened.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provided a vivid glimpse into that relationship of epic historical contradiction between apparent friendliness and the power differentials inherent in colonialist arrangements.

The central mystery in this story is Who Was Abdul Karim?  Was he a selfless aide and friend to Queen Victoria or was he an enterprising, self-promoting, dangerous con man like the people around her believed?  I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

There is no question that he was a devoted servant of the Queen.  He gave her Urdu lessons every day for years.  He helped her answer her correspondence.  He did influence her to be very concerned about Muslims in India.  He also liked the tra
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The book begins with the author’s note on the queen. She is shown around the Windsor Castle where she comes across the portrait of Abdul painted by Rudolph Swoboda. Shrabani Basu takes us to Agra and its political background when Abdul comes into the picture. The subsequent journey to Britain is described with intriguing details.

Abdul arrives in the country, which is completely different from his, and he is charmed by it. So is the Queen by him. He becomes her Munshi and she his perpetual defend
Prachi Singh
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written by Shrabani Basu, Victoria, and Abdul is the story of the eccentric friendship between the Queen and  Hafiz Abdul Karim who was later to be known as the Munshi, the teacher of Hindustani language (Urdu) of the Queen who in return taught her the English language.
Abdul was a clerk in the Central Jail of Agra and was chosen to go as one of the Indian servants requested by queen after he helped the jail’s superintendent to send gold bangles as a gift to the Queen. Abdul who came as a servant
I expected so much more than what Basu delivered in this bio of VR and her Munshi, Abdul Karim.
The portrait of Victoria is one of a sensitive, maternal figure, ever willing to learn and wanting to connect on a personal level with another human being, and blind to Karim’s faults.
Karim himself, does not come across as a particularly interesting man. He seems at most to be a competent, inveigling person who connected with the Queen, and made sure he was adequately rewarded for the services he gave
Abdul was handpicked to come to the UK when Victoria wanted to form a closer relationship with India, the fascinating country that she was the new Empress of. He began as a common servant which is not what he was expecting as his skills were in administration but Victoria took a liking to him and gave him a more fitting role where he could assist her with her papers and become her teacher in her desire to learn Urdu. He soon became her most trusted companion, something that other Indian servants ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked how this subverted my expectations. Never thought I'd get to meet a tolerant, outward looking historical British monarch. And then it was striking how this monarch continues to persist with championing the cause of her friend from the subcontinent (in later phases, almost on an offensive):it continued to alarm me. That, and the parallel expose of calcified prejudices and attitudes in the high offices and living rooms were quite telling.

Basu does a remarkable thing to let the cache of co
Vishal Shah
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I’ve learnt and read a lot about the British Raj in India and the reign of the late Queen Victoria, but we never learnt in secondary school about when and how Queen Victoria started learning Hindi and Urdu from her Munshi who is a minister that looks after all affair during the Mughal Empire. Munshi Hanif Abdul Karim.

This book explores Queen Victoria’s relations with India and the Indian people. How Abdul Karim who worked as a clerk doing admin duties at the Agra jail alongside his father to co
Anukriti Malik
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Abdul Karim and Mohammed Buksh , two Indians were summoned by the Queen to help her address some Indian Princes during her Golden Jubilee. As soon as the Queen saw Karim , he catches her eyes and began the story of the most controversial friendship in history.

Gradually , Karim became a vital part of the Queen’s life and decisions ,who considered him as a close confidant amongst everyone from her English family. He was called Munshi – teacher since Karim taught her a lot about the Indian history
I enjoyed this read. I have been interested in the British royalty since my visit to England last year during the Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee.

It gave a glimpse into the royal household in general, and also of course Queen Victoria herself, and how she lived in respect to her family, public, and India.

Found it very fascinating that she had such great interest in India, that she took time to learn Urdu, and constantly indulge in Indian matters. But I have no doubt, that the interest was s
David Dunlap
The story of the relationship between the ageing Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, an Indian Muslim sent to England for the Queen's Golden Jubilee, who ended up staying in England until the Queen's death in 1901, becoming her confidant and friend. Fairly straightforward biographical presentation (that might have benefited from some tighter editing). -- Might have liked this book better had I read it -before- seeing the movie based upon it (the film is more fictionalized). -- It is sad to see the r ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 What an enlightening read! I have not really read anything quite like this before. Sadly the blatant racism is not so shocking of the Victorian era, but the sexism the usually considered beloved Queen faced by those closest to her was surprising to me. (Probably shouldn't be, I just love the idea of an all-powerful and admired female ruler as there are so few throughout history. I know.... hah! I truly am a dreamer!) It was also interesting to read about the love and positivity the Queen had ...more
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Shrabani Basu graduated in History from St Stephen’s College, Delhi and completed her Masters from Delhi University. In 1983, she began her career as a trainee journalist in the bustling offices of The Times of India in Bombay.

Since 1987, Basu has been the London correspondent of Ananda Bazar Patrika group --writing for "Sunday, Ananda Bazar Patrika, "and "The Telegraph."

Basu has appeared on radi

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