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Review: ‘Victoria’, by Daisy Goodwin

Published By: St. Martins Press

Publication Date: 22nd November 2016

I.S.B.N.: 9781250045461

Blurb

“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”

Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”

 

In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

My Review

Biography in novel form. Not half bad either. The development of Victoria during her first few years as queen is developed and explored in a sympathetic manner and with skillful storytelling. Occasionally the biography breaks through the novelisation and it becomes very obvious that the author is dumping information rather than telling the story, but it only happens three or four times and barely detracts from the flow at all.

Definitely one for fans of Victorian history and Queen Vicky herself.

3/5

Review: ‘A Life Discarded’ by Alexander Masters

Published by: Fourth Estate

Publication Date: 5th May 2016

I.S.B.N.: 9780008130770

Format: Hardback

Price: £16.99

Blurb

Unique, transgressive and as funny as its subject, A Life Discarded has all the suspense of a murder mystery. Written with his characteristic warmth, respect and humour, Masters asks you to join him in celebrating an unknown and important life left on the scrap heap.

A Life Discarded is a biographical detective story. In 2001, 148 tattered and mould-covered notebooks were discovered lying among broken bricks in a skip on a building site in Cambridge. Tens of thousands of pages were filled to the edges with urgent handwriting. They were a small part of an intimate, anonymous diary, starting in 1952 and ending half a century later, a few weeks before the books were thrown out. Over five years, the award-winning biographer Alexander Masters uncovers the identity and real history of their author, with an astounding final revelation.

A Life Discarded is a true, shocking, poignant, often hilarious story of an ordinary life. The author of the diaries, known only as ‘I’, is the tragicomic patron saint of everyone who feels their life should have been more successful. Part thrilling detective story, part love story, part social history, A Life Discarded is also an account of two writers’ obsessions: of ‘I’s need to record every second of life and of Masters’ pursuit of this mysterious yet universal diarist.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book, as much a biography of the mysterious diarist as an autobiography of Masters and his friends during the five years he worked on the diaries and writing this book. I sped through it in a matter of hours, the writing kept me transfixed.

Masters is a sensitive biographer, disclosing new information as he learns it, and dealing honestly with his qualms when he learns that the diarist, Laura Francis is still alive. The writing is fluid and engaging, humorous at times and honest.

5/5

I’ve just started studying the life-writing component of my MA Creative Writing. My tutor suggested we should start reading biographies if we didn’t already to get an idea of the diversity of the form. I’ve read biographies in the past, but this was a refreshing change. It only took me four hours to read this book, so I started another one, before I decided to write this review. The book I’m reading at the moment is a biography of Queen Victoria, in the form of fiction. They’re different ways of writing biography but they both work well.

 

Review: ‘Crucifixion’s a Doddle’ by Julian Doyle

See, I told you I’d get round to reviewing a book eventually. Took me all day to find the energy but at last I have!

Publication Date: 1st November 2016

Published by: Clink Street Publishing

Format: Paperback

I.S.B.N.: 978-1911110385

Price: £11.99 (paperback), £3.49 (kindle)

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True crime reviews

Afternoon readers,

I’ve been doing a bit of light reading lately, with two true crime books from WildBlue Press. Netgalley provided them in return for an honest review.

I.S.B.N.: 9781942266440

Publication Date: 7th April 2016

Blurb

A Shocking Story Of A Brutal Murderer And The Intrepid Police Investigators Who Tracked Him Down And Made Him Pay

One morning in July 1974, Anita Andrews, the owner and bartender at Fagiani’s Cocktail Lounge in Napa, California was found dead in her bar–raped, beaten, and stabbed to death in a bloody frenzy. She’d last been seen alive the night before talking to a drifter who sat at the end of the bar, playing cards and flirting with her. But the stranger, along with Anita’s Cadillac, had disappeared. Unable to locate a suspect, police investigators sadly watched the case grow cold over the years.

Meanwhile a month after Anita’s murder, young Michele Wallace, was driving down a road in the mountains near Crested Butte, Colorado, when she gave two stranded motorists, Chuck Matthews and a man named Roy, a ride. Dropping Matthews off at a bar in Gunnison, she agreed to take “Roy” to his truck. She was never seen alive again, nor could a massive search of the mountains locate her remains. The trail leading to her killer also ran into deadends.

Fourteen years later, Charlotte Sauerwin, engaged to be married, met a smooth-talking man at a Laundromat in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. The next evening, her body was found in the woods; she’d been raped, tortured, and her throat slashed. The police suspected her fiance, Vince LeJeune, though he proclaimed his innocence to anyone who would listen. Meanwhile, the man from the Laundromat couldn’t be located.

The three murders would remain unsolved, eating at the hearts, minds and lives of the women’s families, friends and communities. Then in the early 1990s, a rookie Gunnison County sheriff’s investigator named Kathy Young began looking into the Wallace case and identified a suspect named Roy Melanson, a serial rapist from Texas. It would lead her and other investigators looking into murders and rapes in other states to a serial killer who struck again and again with seeming impunity. SMOOTH TALKER is the story of Melanson, his depredations, and the intrepid police work that went into bringing him to justice not just in Colorado, but California and Louisiana.

 

My Review

Absolutely absorbing narrative of the case and the police work tracking down the killer, as technology improved and new cases came up or cold cases were reviewed. The book was fairly well-written although the narrative felt a bit disorganised at times. It wasn’t confusing as such, but it did mean keeping track of multiple investigation narratives at once.

4/5

 

I.S.B.N.: 9781942266532

Publication Date: 21st June 2016

Updated e-book edition – first published in 2000

Blurb

On March 15th, 1987 police in Anchorage, Alaska arrived at a horrific scene of carnage. In a modest downtown apartment, they found Nancy Newman’s brutally beaten corpse sprawled across her bed. In other rooms were the bodies of her eight-year-old daughter, Melissa, and her three-year-old, Angie, whose throat was slit from ear to ear. Both Nancy and Melissa had been sexually assaulted.

After an intense investigation, the police narrowed the principle suspect down to 23-year-old Kirby Anthoney a troubled drifter who had turned to his uncle, Nancy’s husband John, for help and a place to stay. Little did John know that the nephew he took in was a murderous sociopath capable of slaughtering his beloved family.

This true story, shocking and tragic, stunned Anchorage’s residents and motivated the Major Crimes Unit of the Anchorage Police Department to do everything right in their investigation. Feeling the heat as the police built their case, Kirby bolted for the Canadian border. But the cops were on to him. First they hunted him down; then the cops and a tenacious prosecutor began their long, bitter battle to convict him up against an equally tough defense lawyer, as well as the egomaniacal defendant himself. This shocking tale reached its climax in a controversial trial where for the first time an FBI profiler was allowed to testify and the controversial, pre-DNA science of allotyping was presented to a jury. But justice would not be served until after the psychopathic Kirby Anthoney took the stand in his own defense – and showed the world the monster he truly was.

MURDER IN THE FAMILY became an instant New York Times Bestseller when it was first released in 2000. Barer has updated the eBook version of this classic true crime tale of horror.

 

My Review

This is a fascinating case of a true psychopath, and although the details of the crime are hard to read and including the murderer’s rambling monologues slows the later stages of the book down. – at that point I just wanted him to be put away and to know that he’ll never get out again – it was well written but there were some irritating spelling errors that threw me out of the narrative at times, especially when I had to parse the meaning of the sentence.