Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Recommendation: WE TWO (Plus a Long Subtitle) by Gillian Gill

Honey Bear and I checked out the movie The Young Victoria the other day (we never see anything in theaters anymore), and I LOVED it. I loved it so much that I decided I needed to find out more about Victoria and her German prince. (Who also happened to be one of her first cousins. Hey, don’t judge. They did that a lot back then. Too bad no one informed them about the genetic risks…) So I checked out Gillian Gill’s WE TWO a few days later--and loved it just as much.

WE TWO is split into two parts: The first details the Queen’s and prince’s early lives (the Queen is always capitalized, by the way, to the utter dismay of capitalization rules), and the second describes their life together. What’s more, WE TWO doesn’t map things out strictly chronologically; rather, it treats its material thematically on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Ms. Gill picks up a story thread (such as the Queen’s daughter’s engagement to the surprisingly adorable heir of Prussia) and follows it through to its conclusion, then backs up several years and picks up a parallel thread.

A lot of WE TWO surprised me. For instance, Victoria despised having children (although she ended up having nine) and wasn’t a terribly affectionate mother. On that same topic, she never had a miscarriage (a feat for any woman in any century, let alone the nineteenth), and all of her children grew to adulthood (which is even more impressive when you find out her youngest son, Leopold, had hemophilia).

But perhaps the biggest surprise was that Albert wasn’t quite as, uh, swoon-worthy in real life as he was in The Young Victoria. He wasn’t nearly so in love with her, at least at first (although Christopher Hibbert’s biography offers some evidence to the contrary (yeah, I’m currently reading Hibbert’s brick-like QUEEN VICTORIA:) )), and he was more than a little misogynistic. Albert was definitely a product of his times, and I like to think The Young Victoria explored the man that would have been had he been raised in this century.

The subtitle I failed to mention, “Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals,” really says it all. Both the writing and the subject matter of WE TWO thoroughly engaged me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about England’s longest-reigning monarch and her beloved prince.

P.S. Honey Bear and I also attempted another recipe from MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, but I decided not to blog about it because the dish turned out so well:) For all my fellow culinary experimenters, you might try cotes de porc poelees (with gratuitous accent marks I’m not even going to attempt to reproduce, page 386 in the teal-and-orange edition) with the mustard, cream, and tomato sauce mentioned on the next page.


Jenilyn Tolley said...

I love The Young Victoria! We watched it at a writers' retreat earlier this year and were all exhausted when we turned it on. We laughed and laughed at some of the deleted scenes.

I knew Albert was a little romanticized for this audience, but I was okay with that because it was well done and because they really were in love later. They're fascinating to me as well--unfortunately, our library doesn't have WE TWO, though.

Myrna Foster said...

I hadn't heard of "The Young Victoria." Is it a recent release? The movie and the books sound very interesting, and I'm glad your recipe turned out well. Thanks for the recommendations, Krista!

Krista V. said...

Jeni, I'm sorry your library doesn't have WE TWO! You might wait to see if it comes out in paperback in the next year or two.

Myrna, The Young Victoria was a 2009 release starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend. I can't recall anything else I've seen her in, but he was Wickham in the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. The two played beautifully off each other, although she's probably a little too attractive - and tall - to play the Queen:)

StephAlex said...

I thought Emily Blunt was lovely as Victoria! I admit I was bummed to find out Albert did not actually stop the bullet. However, as a novelist I'm willing to forgive the reality oversight. All in the pursuit of drama, right??

The Sisterhood said...

I thought The Young Victoria was a good movie, too. We Two sounds just as fascinating. I enjoy a good historical novel or well-researched non-fiction. Thanks for the review!

♥ Mary Mary

Krista V. said...

StephAlex, I, too, was a little disappointed when I found out Albert didn't actually take a bullet for her, but like you said, I can't fault them for adding a dramatic touch:) It was a nice way to resolve the conflict they'd introduced.

You're welcome, Mary Mary! I think you'll like this one.