Victoria: The Woman Who Made the Modern World by Julia Baird (HarperCollins Publishers)
Spanning eight decades of nineteenth-century British history, this engaging biography of Queen Victoria is lit up by an astonishing richness of detail and a diverse cast of characters. Besides Victoria and her beloved husband, Albert, other notables include the Prime Ministers — Lord Melbourne, Benjamin Disraeli and Sir William Gladstone — with their varying foibles and attributes. Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens and Alfred, Lord Tennyson are also among those who make appearances.
But above all it is Victoria’s story. Julia Baird has drawn on Victoria’s correspondence and personal notebooks to bring a new perspective to the diminutive woman who was both monarch and mother of nine. The enduring Victoria, in Baird’s words, ‘grasped the mantle of power when other women had none’, and worked almost until the moment of her death. Yet she was happiest with her husband, and, later, with her companion John Brown in the seclusion of the Scottish Highlands.