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Queen Victoria: A Life of Contradictions [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Dennison
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A fresh, witty, accessible life of Queen Victoria. Not since Lytton Strachey has the irony, contradictions and influence of this Queen been treated with such flourish or biographical insight.

'Queen Victoria had a very complicated and psychologically fascinating personality and only a very talented biographer could get to the key of her character. Fortunately in Matthew Dennison's pithy, well-researched, beautifully written and very accessible book, she has found one' Andrew Roberts

Queen Victoria is Britain’s queen of contradictions. In her combination of deep sentimentality and bombast; cultural imperialism and imperial compassion; fear of intellectualism and excitement at technology; romanticism and prudishness, she became a spirit of the age to which she gave her name.

Victoria embraced photography, railway travel and modern art; she resisted compulsory education for the working classes, recommended for a leading women’s rights campaigner ‘a good whipping’ and detested smoking. She may or may not have been amused.

Meanwhile she reinvented the monarchy and wrestled with personal reinvention. She lived in the shadow of her mother and then under the tutelage of her husband; finally she embraced self-reliance during her long widowhood. Fresh, witty and accessible, Queen Victoria is a compelling assessment of Victoria’s mercurial character and impact, written with the irony, flourish and insight that this Queen and her rule so richly deserve.

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'Matthew Dennison’s short, elegant biography of Queen Victoria focuses on the woman herself, rather than her effect on the country or her monarchical legacy … The book offers a nuanced portrait of Victoria, who could be impetuous and hypocritical, but also surprisingly progressive in her social views. Dennison writes with flair, and his vivid pen portraits of the peripheral figures in Victoria’s story are worth the price alone' David Evans, Independent on Sunday

‘Sometimes caustic about her stubbornness and passions, often admiring of her frankness and honesty, Dennison's Queen Victoria sweeps us through the monarch's long and colourful life at a collected canter. He draws on imagery of her reign, including portraits of her with John Brown, to startlingly good effect, making us see with new eyes the lone young queen, later the Widow of Windsor and, in a final role, Grandmama of Europe’ Flora Fraser

'Matthew Dennison has pulled off a tremendous coup in writing a short and concise book, encapsulating Victoria's life in 152 small pages. Short books can sometimes be superficial overviews, but this one has the confidence of considerable research, well digested and well delivered… For anyone approaching Queen Victoria for the first time, this is perfect' Hugo Vickers, Times

'This illuminating book gives us Victoria in deliberately bite-sized chunks… Dennison's dry wit and concise analysis bring new life to a monarch we all thought we knew' Daily Express

'In elegant, eloquent prose, Matthew Dennison has written a close-focus and perceptive account of a complex woman' Country Life

‘One is left breathless with admiration for the great Queen’ The Tablet

‘[Matthew Dennison] has done an adroit and incisive job of tying together Victoria’s many loose ends’ Spectator

About the Author

Matthew Dennison is the author of three critically acclaimed works of non-fiction: ‘The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria's Youngest Daughter’, written with the full assistance of the Royal Archives and published in nine UK editions to date, ‘Empress of Rome: The Life of Livia’, and ‘The Twelve Caesars’. Described in The Independent as 'one of those rare marvels, a historical biographer whose work has reached the bestseller lists', he is also a regular contributor to
Country Life, Telegraph Magazine, The Times and Majesty.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Unlike many historical tomes one of this books most favourable assets is that it is concise and not, therefore, daunting. Matthew Dennison has a very good command of language and I found it easy to read aswell and illuminating. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Queen Victoria but finds the prospect of a huge 500 pager off-putting! He gets to the character of the woman and the sub-title "A Life of Contradictions" sums it up well. A very good addition to the bookshelves...........
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and insightful 24 Jun. 2014
This is a beautifully written, perceptive and fascinating account of Queen Victoria. As you read it you feel immersed not just in the historical period but inside the mind of Victoria. Dennison brilliantly relates the conflict that preoccupied the last forty years of her life between the public and the personal and he teases out emotional threads from her early life which help to explain Victoria's extraordinary, tragic, often unwittingly funny and strange world. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly fabulous read 14 Sept. 2013
I really enjoyed this book. It's rare to find a book on Queen Victoria
that can't double as a doorstop, let alone one which gives you such an
illuminating sense of what her reign was about, and how she as a person
shaped it so dramatically. If you want to know about the Victorians then
this is the book for you.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing 18 Nov. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As an admitted Queen Victoria fan, this book left me a bit cold. The author is in complete command of the facts and frequently has an original take on familiar themes, but he doesn't appear to warm to his very human subject. Mr Dennison is certainly expert, but also a sceptic, and you wonder if he is really in sympathy with Queen Victoria or not.

A couple of times he mentions Lytton Strachey's "Queen Victoria", a biography of similar length, but a book quite different in feeling. Strachey presents Victoria as a fascinating individual, warts and all. As a result of her eccentricities, Strachey makes you fall for her. I didn't find the present author conveyed the Queen's charm, despite his numerous piquant observations. She is more of 'a noteworthy case', her story suitable for a skilful but objective dissection.

This book reads something like a brilliant dissertation on Queen Victoria's life. It is a dazzling high-wire act, embellished with colourful turns of phrase, but despite the astute analysis and the skilful style, in the end I was disappointed because it left me untouched by Queen Victoria as a personality. I enjoyed the author's use of an exotic vocabulary, which made me look up some interesting new words !
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one book.... 13 Sept. 2013
If you only read one book on Queen Victoria, this is the one to choose. Beautifully written it will give you a perfect picture of how and why Queen Victoria shaped a century so decisively. There are many books out there on the history and impact of her reign, but few give so clear an understanding of the character of the Queen herself. A character that shaped her rule and so that of her empire and her subjects. I can't recommend it highly enough....
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