March is the month of eclecticism, not because I wished it to be, but because there was still some after effect of Middlemarch. In no way would I be able to read a ‘good’ novel this month. I was even scared to return to old favourites should they not perform in the same way they had in 2016 BM (Before Middlemarch). So I turned to some non-fiction that I was eager to get to, and when I eventually picked up a novel again, lo and behold– it was a slightly poor excuse for one.
Victoria by Julia Baird
How long I have been searching for a biography like this! Julia Baird’s Victoria satiates a very large appetite. The book is physically heavy, but extremely hard to put down.
Baird makes it obvious from the first; Victoria’s life is a life to be read in its entirety. She is, without question, the most intriguing female monarch to have graced the throne with her royal bottom. Victoria’s personality, habits and propensity to feel with the fire of three thousand suns, makes her a prodigious example to women. Her lengthy reign as queen has, without a doubt, produced tsunami-esque ripples of influence that exist to this day. This is owing to Victoria’s sheer will power and productivity; the girl wasn’t lazy. With nine children spread across the powerhouses of Europe and a country to represent, Victoria still managed to pen an enormous amount of work and, though a lot of her writings on Brown and Karim were destroyed, we still have so much to look at and so much to devour and learn.
Victoria was immoveable in her own beliefs, particularly when she wished to dismember the less flattering of her prime ministers (Peel and then Gladstone), but was utterly loyal and intoxicatingly passionate with those who moved her innermost soul. When Baird recounts the death of Albert, it is almost as if the backbone has been wrenched out from underneath the entire world. It makes you stop and look outside to check if the sun is still dipping in the sky. But this was Victoria’s reality, and certainly not an exaggeration. The biography seems romantic, but who can blame Baird?
Most importantly, Victoria is a biography for readers. Dickens, Tennyson, Bernard Shaw, Eliot, Wilde, Disraeli, Darwin and Conan Doyle are a few of the monarchs of literature to be mentioned. It feels as if by discovering Victoria, we have discovered this grand time for artists of the written word. It is a mountainous feat that the biography manages to capture not just the woman but the era and in doing so, never feels scientific or stiff with research. It did not tell; it gripped and shook, sandblasting a great woman’s existence out of the marble of history. Baird is capable of catapulting Victoria’s presence across space and time and for that, it gets five lovely and delicate mustachios out of five.
Monet by Simona Bartolena
Oh the Water Lilies! Oh the Haystacks!
I picked up this exorbitantly priced magazine on the way out of the Musee d’Orsay, (as the exit only appeared at the far horizon of the gift shop). It briefly details the biography of the ‘Raphael of Water’ before letting his art tell the story, and in the following pages, you are presented with a running commentary of some of his greatest pieces alongside full-page illustrations. Is Monet my favourite Impressionist? Yes. Have I just made some art history majors squirm in their seats? Probably, but what is better, is that I likely have not.
In Monet’s work, you feel the warmth of the sun, you hear the wind against the water and through the trees, you smell the heat off the grass. For me, it is wild joy. He has found the poetic in all matter and has captured the essence of light, simply because light falls on matter. The very real visions and feelings encapsulated in each piece cannot even be achieved in a photograph. It is nothing short of remarkable. To think of what the world would give now to have seen him paint in the open air!
Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas
Having only recently recovered from the pitchfork I took to my eyes after reading Queen of Shadows, I felt that now might be the correct time to give the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series a chance. Heir of Fire was superb. Queen of Shadows was not. In optimistic terms, Empire of Storms had infinite degrees of freedom to be better than its predecessor. And thankfully it was (because my eye specialist is very busy, and I would have had to wait three months for an appointment).
Here are some of the things you can expect when you pick up a 688 page New York Times Bestseller: This instalment follows the new court of Aelin Ashryver Galythinius as she does a few cool things with a sword, some fire magic and her sculpted male side kick. So far so good. There is also some fae people that growl at each other, witches that constantly fantasise about gouging people’s eyes out, and an eons old dark lord that is completely-omnipotent-and-totally-scary. Again, perfectly acceptable.
What is more scary than the Valg King, is that this novel, this New York Times best-selling novel, is full of punctuation errors and misspelled words and has been edited by literally no one at all. The prose is like the décor in my grandmother’s house; busy and should come with an epileptic fit warning. This book is a frightening example of how quickly the industry pushes out market fiction. How there is no regard for the art of the thing and no lingering guilt on how the future of literature could be influenced by it. Should I be made to believe that this is the standard for success in writing? A market that has absolutely no concern about the quality of material being presented to young people? It is scarier than a two hundred strong army of ilken!
If you are looking for a world damnation romp in which all the characters are supernaturally beautiful all the time, then stop right here and pick it up. But for me, well, with the series as whole… I am all ambivalence.
If you have read any of these books, I would love to know what you thought of them! Talk to me down in the comments or chat with me over on my Twitter, if you click here you will magically apparate there. Thank you for reading!