STARRED REVIEW
January 2019

Inventing Victoria

By Tonya Bolden
Review by

Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author Tonya Bolden (Maritcha, Crossing Ebenezer Creek) has penned an atmospheric and fresh historical novel with Inventing Victoria. Her prose is rich in period detail, evoking both the barren loneliness of Essie’s childhood and the luxurious fortune that her generous benefactor offers. Bolden has created a sweeping and exhilarating story of a teen girl filled with hope and perseverance.

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Born two decades after the Civil War in segregated Savannah, Georgia, Essie has had the odds against her from the start. And with a formerly enslaved mother who’s become bitter and is subsequently not much for nurturing, Essie’s pretty much on her own, and her dreams seem impossibly out of reach. Even as she gathers some people into her corner—like Ma Clara, her mother’s housekeeper who cares for her, and Binah, the best (and only) friend she’s ever had—making something of herself still seems like a long shot.

Essie spends most of her days working as a maid at a boardinghouse, until a wealthy black woman known as Dorcas Vashon shows up and makes her the offer of a lifetime: She will provide Essie with a classical education and a fine wardrobe, and then she will spirit her away to Washington, D.C., where Essie will meet and mingle with the upper echelons of black society. It’s everything Essie has ever dreamed of. But the road to her new life is not entirely smooth, and she’ll have to decide how much of her former self she’s willing to part with. As her dreams begin to become her reality, she decides to gift herself with a new name to suit her new identity, one that embodies all the grace and tenacity she hopes to exhibit: Victoria.

Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author Tonya Bolden (Maritcha, Crossing Ebenezer Creek) has penned an atmospheric and fresh historical novel with Inventing Victoria. Her prose is rich in period detail, evoking both the barren loneliness of Essie’s childhood and the luxurious fortune that her generous benefactor offers. Bolden has created a sweeping and exhilarating story of a teen girl filled with hope and perseverance.

Told from the perspective of a young woman of color in a time period rarely seen in historical fiction for young adults, Inventing Victoria is a truly unique and necessary addition to the genre.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Inventing Victoria

Inventing Victoria

By Tonya Bolden
Bloomsbury
ISBN 9781681198071

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