Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Review: Shooting Victoria

I have been meaning to write up a review for this book for quite some time, but life seemed to really get in the way. These past few weeks have been insanely busy, and I am happy to now have some time to catch up on reading and blogging.

Another Victorian themed book I want to recommend is Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy. This book was a surprise. I thought the history might be interesting, but I was pleasantly surprised by Paul Thomas Murphy's narrative style. As he covers the various assassination attempts against Queen Victoria, he imbues a sense of anticipation and dread, even though you know as a reader that Victoria escapes all attempts unscathed. It's quite the thriller!

I didn't realize until I read this book that Victoria survived so many assassination attempts. I had heard of one, or perhaps two at the most. Instead, the Queen managed to escape seven. And she did so with a huge amount of fortitude. Murphy covers in his book how Victoria's response to these assassination attempts shaped not only her reign, but the modern British monarchy. The idea of a working monarch is tied directly to Victoria, and how she reigned.

Murphy covers more than Victoria and the attempts on her life - he delves into the lives of her would-be assassins, from the pitiful to the frightening. Along the way, he covers the developments into the insanity defense (fun for the lawyers out there familiar with M'Naughten), as well as the treatment of the insane.

Each attempt is vividly described so that the reader can picture himself there in the scene. Even if you are a person who usually finds history dull, this book will capture your attention. Murphy weaves together the plottings of Victoria's assailants, along with political and social developments, to give the Victorian era much greater nuance than the dusty, prim, and fussy society many characterize it today. There is political intrigue a plenty, and Victoria shows far more pluck than you'd give credit to a sheltered princess. Perhaps that's where Queen Elizabeth inherited her own poise when dealing with her own assailant.

All in all, it's a great read and very quick, despite the thick tome. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of true crime with their history, or for a look back at the British monarchy. 

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