Category: Historical Biography

“Victoria and Abdul” by Shrabani Basu

“Victoria and Abdul” by Shrabani Basu

I always find Queen Victoria fascinating and this book is no exception. The author relates for us the story of Victoria’s friend Abdul, who comes to her household originally to serve at table, but becomes one of her closest confidantes in the last decade of her life. I think Shranani Basu has done a wonderful job of bringing the main players to life. I really had a sense of being a fly on the wall watching the various dramas unfold. I thought it was wonderful that this Abdul had come along in her older years and opened up a whole new world for her. He made Indian food for her, taught her to speak Hindi, and introduced her to the culture of India, over which she was Empress, and yet a place she would never visit. Meanwhile, her family appears to have been insanely jealous of the relationship. Well, I say 3 cheers to Victoria for wanting to learn new things all the way to the day of her death.

This story has now been made into a movie, which I have not yet seen so I’m not sure how well it keeps to the story. I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this chapter of the Queen’s life and it just confirms my impression that she must have been a wonderful person to know. I think that Abdul brought a level of excitement back into Victoria’s life at a time when others were starting to write her off because of her age. I highly recommend this book for its color and attention to detail and historical accuracy.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 4-5-star-rating  4.5 stars!!

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: “Madame Presidentess” by Nicole Evelina

Book Review: “Madame Presidentess” by Nicole Evelina

It’s election season 2016 and as we look to the possibility of electing a female president for the first time, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read this book, “Madame Presidentess”, about the first woman to run for president in this country. That’s right! Hilary Clinton is not the first woman to RUN for president. That honor belongs to Victoria Woodhull who was a candidate for election in 1872 as an independent. Mrs. Woodhull, sometimes referred to as “Queen Victoria” turns out to be a fascinating character. She did not have an idyllic childhood and certainly did not come from money, but she was passionate about rights for women and never let anybody tell her she couldn’t do something because of her gender. Victoria was the daughter of a con-man who was mean and abusive to his children, but she was determined to have something better. On her way to becoming a presidential candidate she was also the first woman to own a Wall Street brokerage firm. Her naysayers along the way were vicious in their attacks and more than one friend turned against her but she never stopped believing in her cause.

If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I occasionally enjoy exploring the lesser known corners of history. This book is no exception. I found the life of Victoria Woodhull to be fascinating and the author has done an excellent job in telling it. I have to say that I’ve never really given too much thought to the feminist movement before the 20th century and this book really opened my eyes to the work that was being done by women starting in the 2nd century of this country. Victoria Woodhull and her fellow suffragists didn’t get to see all the fruits of their labor during their lifetimes but I suspect that they look down with pride at what has been accomplished with the groundwork they laid. While the reader may not agree with everything she espoused (do any of us ever agree 100% with another person’s views), she is nevertheless a hero of the women’s movement in the United States and should be remembered as such. I highly recommend this book.

Alinefromabook’s rating: TWO THUMBS-UP!!

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Book Review: “Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly

Book Review: “Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was a female journalist in the late 1800’s. At the time, female journalists wrote about the home and society gatherings. Nellie set a new standard for investigative journalism, often writing about the plight of working women of her day. One of her assignments was to pretend to be insane and get herself committed to the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island in New York. She spent ten days locked away and the result was this book. In it she exposes the substandard conditions and brutal treatment of the women who were incarcerated there. Nellie’s book led to a grand jury investigation of the facility and the eventual improvement of conditions.

This book is a relatively short read and the edition I have included two articles at the end which she wrote about working conditions of women. Though the subject matter is very unpleasant, I nevertheless enjoyed the book. I found it shocking how easily the doctors she encountered wrote her off as insane. Our current mental health system is far from perfect, but in comparison to what she describes, has improved immensely. This would be a good choice for history or journalism buffs alike.

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“Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I” by Tracy Borman

“Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I” by Tracy Borman

I had never heard of Matilda until I picked up this book and I am so glad I picked it up. Matilda was not only a wife to William the Conqueror but also it seems was quite literally “the wind beneath his wings”. She was a woman who provided her husband not only with 9 children but the kind of steadying influence which enabled him to successfully conquer and rule England and Normandy for many years. There is not much in the way of biographical details about Matilda’s everyday life in the historical records but the author has done an excellent job of piecing together the information that is available and mapping out the life of this queen whose descendants have held the throne for a thousand years.

Matilda and William had a very rocky start to their relationship as Matilda initially rejected him as a potential husband. His response was to go to her home and beat her till near death, after which she declared that she would have no other as a husband. In the early years they were the Duke and Duchess of Normandy and Matilda, who was very well educated for her time, brought to the court the cultural elements that William, trained as a warrior, was lacking. In addition she was a very pious woman and worked diligently throughout their marriage to keep William on the straight and narrow.

Their relationship was by all accounts one of great affection and William was criticized during his time for his faithfulness to his wife, something which was very uncommon at the time. William also came to greatly trust his wife’s judgment to such an extent that when he left Normandy to conquer England he left her completely in charge of his duchy. She apparently ruled quite well in his absence because this would continue to be his practice until the last few years of their marriage. Matilda would later be crowned Queen of England at William’s insistence and she would be the first woman to be recognized as a queen in more than name by the European world at that time. It was Matilda who was able to use her skills in diplomacy to soften the blow of the fierceness of William’s conquest.

Toward the end of her life there would be a war between William and his oldest son Robert which would drive a wedge between Matilda and William for the remainder of their years and undermine the trust William had placed in Matilda. Robert had always been Matilda’s favorite son and William’s least favorite. When William refused to give Robert his inheritance of the duchy Robert rebelled and tried to overthrow William. Matilda took the side of her oldest son. Nevertheless, when Matilda died a few years later William was completely overwhelmed by grief and continued to be for the next four years until his own death.

I was very impressed by the story of Matilda and the influence she was able to have at a period of history when women were thought to be good for little more than child-bearing. I also found this book very enjoyable to read which I attribute to the authors writing style. While the book is obviously very well researched and the story is well cited throughout the author also has a style which is very approachable. At no point did I feel like I was being drowned in a litany of facts as some biographies can turn into. I do enjoy reading the stories of the less obvious players in history and this one did not disappoint. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of history or biographies.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_22?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=queen%20of%20the%20conqueror&sprefix=Queen+of+the+conqueror%2Caps%2C316