Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Prisoners at the Palace

Britain's monarchy is something I have been fascinated by since I was a child. One of the first books I read about the royal family that spurred this interest was The World of Lady Jane Grey by Gladys Malvern (1964). This book felt like a soap opera on paper, yet even though the story was fictional, much of it was also based on real events.

Prisoners at the Palace by Michaela MacColl is also a novel about Britain's royal family, this time focusing on Princess Victoria. I will admit I have not read much about Princess (and later Queen) Victoria. While I know this book is based on historical events, I will have to read further to find out more about the goings on as Victoria reached adulthood and became Queen after the death of her uncle, The King.

Prisoners at the Palace is told through the eyes of Liza, a new maid to the princess. Her parents have left her orphaned and destitute. Initially she anticipated being made one of Victoria's ladies in waiting, as she had been groomed to lead a life in high society, yet after her parents' death, she is instead hired as a maid and has to forego any dreams of grandeur and wealth. Victoria likes Liza's company most of the time, and Liza for the mostpart, enjoys Victoria. However, Victoria's own mother seems to have little interest in her daughter and there are definite plans afoot to portray Victoria as simpled minded, unable to make decisions for her country as Queen. The two young ladies work together along with the help of a homeless boy, using the inner chambers of the palace as his home, to thwart the plans of taking over the crown from Victoria.

This book has definitely made me more curious about Queen Victoria's reign. It seems that most of my reading has centered around Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, or Elizabeth I. MaColl has done a great deal of research to be able to write a book that contains not only a great story but also a wealth of information about life during this time period. This one languished for a while in my library stack. Although I had read a few good reviews, the cover was not really calling to me. I am not sure how teen readers will feel about this cover. Hopefully they can look beyond that because the story is definitely worth reading. This was a fast read. The story moved along nicely, with a bit of suspense as Liza worked to help the Princess prove herself and inherit the crown. MacColl's author's note provided background information, and while the story ended prior to Victoria being crowned, there is information about Queen Victoria's later life that is included.


Anonymous said...

I've always been interested by Britain's monarchy, too, but I haven't actually read a lot about it. I'll have to look up this one at my library. Great review!

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I'm a total anglophile! Love the monarchy (can I queue the DVR yet for the royal wedding in april?). The only thing I really know about Victoria: She had lots of kids, She wore black the rest of her life after Albert died; she always looks dowdy in pictures. Loved the review...might need to check this out.