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Golden Reader Panel review10/11/11| Ashley KempTo begin, I must point out that the proper rating would actually be 3.5, but that isn't a possibility so 3 will have to do. I found this book to be well written and thoroughly, almost expertly researched. However, I did feel it lacked in consistency as far as age-appropriateness was concerned. It never got too racy, but it did become rather dull in places, which would lose some of your 12-14 yr old readers rather quickly. Overall, even as an adult reader, I did enjoy the book, but I can't say I'd re-read it anytime soon. I would recommend this book for girls aged 10-13.
Behind the Scenes at What It's like to be a Young Queen10/11/11| Jennifer ChenRecently I was flying to NYC and read a chunk of PRISONERS IN THE PALACE by Michaela MacColl on my 5-hour flight from California. A few days later, my in-laws were watching the movie, Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt, and I was excited that I knew about young Queen Victoria’s life from the book I was reading. MacColl tells the story of teenage Victoria before she ascends to the throne as Queen as told through the eyes of her maid Liza. Set in London in 1836, Liza becomes an orphan after her parents die in a tragic accident. With her father’s debts mounting, Liza seeks out employment in Kensington Palace and lands a position as Victoria’s maid. The two become friends over the course of the book and Liza meets a cast of characters in the Palace, some who are are aligning themselves for key positions in the court by blackmailing the princess and others who are looking out for Victoria’s well-being.
While I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, it should be noted that MacColl does an excellent job of incorporating real historical facts into both Liza and Victoria’s coming-of-age story. Excerpts from actual journal entries Victoria wrote (she had written over 100 volumes of journals by the time she died) and Victoria’s mother’s letters from that time period are ways readers get clued into what palace life must have been like for a young woman.
The writing is fun, with mixtures of newspaper clippings, journal entries from Liza and Victoria, and letters, which tell the many different stories from the different characters involved. What should be admired is that MacColl has crafted these two young women — Liza and Princess Victoria — to be strong young women who learn how to be self-sufficient in a time when women were not considered to be worth much.
At times, the writing can be a little obvious instead of original, particularly in more dramatic moments like when Liza discovers what has happened to the previous maid in her exact position. But overall, MacColl translates the royal world into a relatable tale of what every young girl feels like when she’s on the cusp of becoming a woman.
Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end, which details what characters are true to life and what history MacColl used in the book. After you get to know the cast of characters, it’s quite fascinating to read the real inspirations behind them.
Debut Author Takes Prisoners of Her Own10/11/11| Julie DeesI enjoy historical fiction and this book is a lovely addition to the this genre as well as that of young adult reading. It is listed as an appropriate book for ages 12 and up. I think young readers and adults alike will find this a very satisfying look into Queen Victoria's young life.
Liza is mercilessly thrust into the life of a servant after being catered to and pampered her entire existence. She is 16 years old and doesn't know how to undress herself! When she lucks into a position as a maid to Princess Victoria at the run-down Kensington Palace, she must learn to do everything for her lady that she was used to having done for herself.
There are several colorful characters that are introduced in the telling of the tale. Several are people that you instinctively dislike such as Victoria's mother, the Duchess and her ally, Sir John. The author writes their personalities in such a way that you can't help but root against them in favor of Liza and the Princess. In contrast, Will and Inside Boy are two of the supporting cast that you immediately like.
I always enjoy when an author incorporates real people and real events into a fictional story. It gives these historical figures a much more human appeal and a reality to them. Ms. MacColl wove fiction and fact into a lovely tale of two young ladies in different circumstances who are thrown together to make their way as they can.
I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this debut author.