I realised the other day that I had totally forgotten to announce my Book of the Year. Did the lists, did the checking and thinking and then nada. Christmas, allergy and hives got in the way so my apologies.
As last year, my book of the year is a non-fiction and it is Bertie: A Life of Edward VII by Jane Ridley. The last biography of Edward read by me was one written by Philip Magnus and that was light years ago and it was time for a reappraisal and an update and when I saw this was coming out it went on my wishlist immediately. I will not repeat what I said in my review which you can see here, save to reiterate that this is a totally fascinating and absorbing book, beautifully written, impeccably researched and, what is so important to me when reading a biography, I felt that the author had a real fondness and liking for her subject, not always the case.
In the last week we have seen an excellent three parter on the relationship Queen Victoria had with her children and though it seems she was a dreadful mother, we do judge her with 2013 outlook and eyes. If you had nine children in the Victorian times and were aristocratic, then you did not breast feed, you hired a wet nurse and your children were looked after by nannies and tutors etc. If you were the Queen then even more reason to do so.
My theory on the mother/son relationship is that she recognised that Bertie was just like her, in looks and temperament, and it scared her. Deep down she knew that if she had not been married to Albert, and if her lines had not fallen in pleasant places, she could have led a much less worthy life. She might have had a bit more fun, but that is by the by. What is clear to me in this biography is that despite everything, and despite the letters and the arguments and the disapproval of his louche lifestyle, there was a bond between mother and son. The Queen always came to his aid when he was in a scrape and though she gave him what for at the time, she never wavered in her support of him. And, in return, though Bertie chafed at the restrictions placed on him and the constant interference in life, he never fell out with her and his letters, though sometimes annoyed and to the point, were never angry or nasty. She often said he was warm hearted and kind and a 'dear boy' and as the years passed and the influence of her Beloved Albert lessened I feel that her disapproval of her son lessened also and she viewed him more softly.
My criteria for choosing my Book of the Year is simple. I never put it down until it is finished, I love every single moment of my reading time and it totally engrosses me to the point that the outside world goes away. Well, Jane Ridley and her marvellous biography ticked all the boxes.
I love Bertie and I loved this book and that is why it is my book of the year.