'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 8 April 2016

Review: The Adventures of Alice Laselles

This exquisite and decorative book recounts the created lives of 8 cut-out dolls, written by Queen Alexandrina Victoria when she was almost eleven years old. The story that was a class composition and dedicated to her mother is based around the main character Alice Laselles.

The original, much longer story is housed in the Royal Archives at Windsor Palace, along with Victoria’s two albums of coloured-in cut-out dolls. It has been reproduced here with brilliant illustrations by Cristina Pieropan which were digitally cut out and manipulated by Felix Petruska. I was so impressed by the amount of work that went into creating these illustrations, it made me re-think the value of each picture book I read.

Victoria, as she came to be known, showed great talent as a writer at an early age. She kept journals from the age of thirteen, was clever and artistic, and had an extraordinary imagination.

Here is Alice’s story: Alice’s mother dies and her stepmother convinces her husband to send Alice away to a girl’s school for six years after having a child of her own.

At the school there were seven other girls. Victoria created a detailed life story for each of these characters. Every doll was highly individual. For example, Ernestine was short and plump, blind in one eye, with skin pock-marked from the small pox. Selina was born deaf and dumb. Laura and Adelaide were twins.

Together with her governess Baroness Lehzen, they spent much of their time making countless dolls out of paper which Victoria coloured in. It is believed that some of the dolls were painted by Victoria’s step-sister Feodora, and some by Sir John Conroy’s daughter. (Conroy was in charge of the household at Kensington Palace).

There are pictures of Victoria’s dolls at the back of the book. More information on all the items in the Royal Collection, the Royal Family and the palaces, can be accessed via the Royal Collection website.

This delightful cloth covered book is ideal for anyone with an interest in dolls, or how girls lived during the time of Queen Victoria’s childhood.  The superb illustrations depict the clothing, hair styles and etiquette of the Victorian era. The language and manners of the age are revealed through narrative and dialogue. I consider this a very collectable publication and one worthy of space on any bookshelf.

Title: The Adventures of Alice Laselles
Author/Illustrator: Queen Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria)
Illustrator: Cristina Pieropan
Publisher: Thames & Hudson, $29.99 RRP
Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Cloth Hardback
ISBN: 9781909741188
For ages: 8+
Type: Non Fiction Picture Book