My book of the year which trounced the rest of the competition as soon as I started to read it, is Magnificent Obsession; Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy by Helen Rappaport.
At the end of my review of Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin I was positive that this would be my choice as I could not envisage another book coming along which could beat it. Well, two weeks later I read Helen's simply terrific book and changed my mind immediately and here is my review.
When Albert died Victoria wanted to die, indeed she assumed she would as she could not imagine living without her beloved husband. She retreated into widowhood and mourning and waited. It may sound acontradictory thing to say but I feel she kept going because she was expecting that it wouldn't be for long and she would be reunited with Albert. But the years passed and the reader can feel her desolation and grief and I wondered how she must have felt when she realised that she wasn't going to die, she was going to live and she had to continue without him. Her misery must have been overwhelming. How was she to cope?
As with Ekaterinburg, which I read a couple of years ago and reviewed here, Helen has the knack of making you so involved with the feelings and emotions of her subject, be it Romanovs or Coburgs, that their sorrows become yours. I cried when I read Ekaterinburg and I had a sniff or two when I read Magnificent Obsession. Not many authors can write in such a scholarly and readable manner and make you cry at the same time, but this one does.
I have loved this period of history and Victoria and Albert since reading Elizabeth Longford's landmark biography of Queen Victoria back in 1964. That was the book that started it all off. Since then I have read many biographies and histories of the Queen, the Prince Consort, their letters, their children's lives and find them as fascinating today as I did then.
Helen Rappaport has written a wonderful book and I am delighted to choose it as my Book of the Year.