Friday, January 24, 2014

The Lost Queen by Norah Lofts

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Open Library Loan
Read: November 13, 2013

Princesses are born to be exiled. What is the alternative? Spinsterhood?' Thus the future of Caroline Matilda, youngest sister of George III, was settled - exile to a foreign country, and marriage to a nearly insane Crown Prince of Denmark. Entreatingly prompted by a sense of foreboding, she begged that one of her sisters be sent in her place. But Caroline was the healthiest, the strongest of the English princesses, and as well as being exiled, princesses were meant to be brood mares. Here is the life of Caroline Matilda set against the stark contrasts of 18th century Denmark; the cruelty, poverty and oppression of life under an absolute monarch sinking into madness; and the hatreds and court intrigues that swirled around the young English girl who was Queen of Denmark.

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I can't say Norah Lofts' The Lost Queen will go down as one of my all-time favorite reads, but I will say the book sparked a genuine interest in both Princess Caroline Matilda and the general history of Denmark. A literal blank slate, I knew nothing about this story prior to picking it up, but by the time I'd finished I was consumed with a desire to know more.

This being my first encounter with Lofts, I didn't know what to expect in terms of style and while I quite liked the language, the tone and flow of the narrative were difficult for me to appreciate. Slow and overly drawn-out, I frequently felt a desire to skim ahead. Inexperienced as I am, I can't say if this is characteristic of all Lofts' work, but it is certainly something I'll keep in mind should I attempt another of her titles. 

Lofts' intimate portrayal of Caroline Matilda was initially promising, but the character was ultimately one dimensional. Struensee was similarly disappointingly, wooden and entirely unmemorable. I did, however, like what Lofts did with Christian. I'll grant he is a little over the top, but all things considered, I think that actually worked in her favor as his deepening madness gave dimension to Caroline Matilda's relationship with Struensee.

The Lost Queen offers an interesting glimpse at an oft overlooked affair, but that being said, Lofts certainly played it safe. Like so many authors in this genre, she adds only modest embellishment to the historic record and while I appreciate her dedication to accuracy, I can't say the final product was particularly remarkable.

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She took the paper, read the horrible charge—criminal communication with Count Struensee—and recognized it as the polite, legal term for adultery. She heard again the old Queen Mother's rasping voice ordinary women commit adultery, Queens commit treason.
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2 comments:

CLM said...

I grew up reading Norah Lofts but oddly don't recall this one. Thanks for the reminder - I must hunt it down!

The Flashlight Reader said...

I'm sure it isn't difficult locate, her work being as popular as it is, but I actually downloaded it for free here:

https://openlibrary.org/works/OL5096750W/The_lost_queen

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