In all honesty, I have very little interest in the British royal family. Or any royal family, past or present. So when this huge book, a new biography of Queen Victoria, was long-listed for the Stellar Prize, I was kind of disappointed – I wanted to read books by female Australian authors, but this was not my cup of tea. Or so I thought.
Julia Baird has managed to write about this family in a way that compelled me to read more. I wanted to know about Victoria and her horrible mother and the love affair between Victoria and Albert, and about all of the children, and about Mr Brown and about the young Indian man who won her attention in her later years. What fascinated me was how much other people knew about Victoria. I’d mention I was loving this book and people would tell me how horrible she was to her children, or how she treated her guests or, well, all kinds of things. What I found most amazing was that she kept detailed diaries and had a huge correspondence, but after her death, one of her daughters went through the whole lot, picked and chose what the world should know, and destroyed the rest. Destroyed it! Unbelievable! And yet we can still end up with such a wonderful biography – read it.