The Adventures of Alice Laselles by Alexandrina Victoria aged 10 3/4

“On Wednesdays we wear pink!”

The Adventures of Alice Laselles by Queen Victoria

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had this on my to be read list for a while, interested not only for the author but also because of my research into young female writers. It is an amazing topic to look at and one which fascinates me endlessly (I’m doing a PhD on it) and so Queen Victoria’s book, written when she was ’10 and 3/4′ is particularly up my street.

One of the things to look at in books written by young writers, that is to say ‘children’s literature written by children’, is how it’s presented to the world. The packaging here is very precise and tells you that the author is both Alexandrina Victoria and also Queen Victoria – so she’s kind of captured between the two identities immediately, a writer who is young/old, herself and not herself, and her story is interesting because of that. This isn’t an unusual thing to do: there’s a big tradition of adults having some discomfort about how to represent juvenile texts. For example, I’m working with one at the moment that has a coy little note from the publisher’s that tells us how they haven’t changed the spelling or grammar one bit – and yet, in popping that little note in, they draw a wry adult attention to it. It says – essentially – that it’s a book by a kid and you need to understand that through the filter of your much more learned self. These stories are difficult things for adults to handle and I find that so, so interesting.

The Adventures of Alice Laselles comes with an introduction by Jacqueline Wilson who draws a connection between Victoria’s love of paper dolls and her own. There’s an interesting preface to this which talks about how Victoria’s dolls have been “digitally cut out and manipulated” with the addition of shadows, changed poses and expressions. The work is sensitively done and the dolls are rather delightfully handled, but I find such an interest here in why the work was done and what that work says about us (adults) when we read books written by children.

So what of the story itself? It’s well told but brief boarding school story with echoes of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Sara Crewe, Or What Happened At Miss Minchin’s and a fair bit of L.T. Meade; plot is introduced and tied up with some alacrity, characters are sketched with that kind of deliciously precise ‘she had brown hair and hated toast’ style of the time. It’s nicely written and speaks of a familiarity with literary cultures and also the boarding school story genre. This is quite classic stuff.

I liked it. It’s a nicely put together piece. I don’t think it’s earth-shattering stuff, nor do I think it would have been remotely published if the author hadn’t been who she is, but it’s still a valuable contribution to the world of children’s literature – not in the least because it exhibits something of the tussle between adult and child in the construction of such.

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6 thoughts on “The Adventures of Alice Laselles by Alexandrina Victoria aged 10 3/4

  1. I quite liked this. I don’t suppose it’s any better than anything that loads of other 10-year-old girls wrote – I think an awful lot of us had a go at writing boarding school books at that age! – but I did enjoy it.

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