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Queen Victoria: A Life of Contradictions Hardcover – June 24, 2014
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“Dennison constructs a remarkable portrait of the queen.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A judicious but lively biography of the highly un-Victorian Queen Victoria...this is an insightful, short look at the life of an inmortal if only sometime-admirable queen” ―Kirkus
About the Author
MATTHEW DENNISON is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last Princess and Livia, Empress of Rome. As a journalist, he contributes to The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Country Life, and The Spectator. He is married and lives in London and North Wales.
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Matthew Dennison has caught the right idea in his title "A Life of Contradictions", Victoria was nothing if not a mass of opposites. She disliked women with careers while being the most famous career girl in the world; She was famous as a mother & grandmother while being a terrible parent; her name came to stand for a era of emotional restraint and devotion to country and duty above all else, even though she had abandoned country and duty for years at a time as well as being famous for her tantrums and temper. Victoria was a terrible snob but free from racial prejudice; She was Grandmother to the empress of Russia while being a strong russo-phobe. The list goes on and on. But Dennison's book doesn't make this come alive in any new or interesting way. As I read the book, I felt always felt as if I was reading the introduction and I kept waiting (and waiting) for the book to begin.
Looking though the extensive notes and bibliography one can conclude that the author is informed by all the latest research and the work is well annotated. This book does not lack for scholarship and yet the feel is more style and less substance. The author throws out an impressive but distracting vocabulary to display his erudition – the effect is more of a 12th grader trying to drag four pages of ideas out into a twelve page essay. Likewise the brief sentences introducing some of the minor characters seem to be on the same level as the witty little judgments one might expect from the cool kids in the high school cafeteria (that is if the cool kids were into putting down the decidedly un-cool regency Hanoverians).
A reader contemplating this book would be well advised to download and read the sample to see if it suits his or her taste. Some (like me) will find it too florid too verbose and, despite it's impressive scholarship, too lacking in detail. For us, Elizabeth Longford's “Born to Succeed” will continue to set the standard as the essential portrait of Queen Victoria.