That Inevitable Victorian Thing, a YA novel by E.K. Johnson is delightfully historically mind-bending. The premise: What if Queen Victoria I persevered and grew the British Empire so that, even in the near future, Victorian British culture thrived all over the world.
After her first books, which are reimaginings/inspired by The Arabian Nights, King Arthur, and The Winter’s Tale, it should be no surprise that from the very first pages of That Inevitable Victorian Thing, I felt a hint of Jane Eyre.
The breezy and quite often humorous tone of the book offset the gravity of some of the issues it posed, one of which being an advanced dating website sanctioned by the Empire that allows you to be matched, not just with people that you may have common interests with, but genetically as well.
With the onset of popular sites like 23 and Me, and Ancestory, it would not be surprising for this to be the next step in matchmaking on a large scale. In the book, it was a true bonus if not only were you a genetic match for someone, but you genuinely liked them as well. It would not be unusual to find a match next door, or half way across the world.
The story follows Victoria – Margaret, a descendant of Victoria I, who will one day be Queen of the Empire. She has her Debut – a coming out – for all young people of age, to be officially introduced to British society and potentially find a partner. Of course, she does this undercover, possibly one of the last times she will be able to be just Margaret and not a Queen. She meets Helena Marcus, daughter of a famous geneticist, and August Callaghan, son of a shipping mogul, and their lives entwine at Débutante balls, dynamically charged tea-parties, and finally a respite to the country.
I don’t want to give away everything, because the twists and turns are really what make this story fun to read. Let it suffice to say that in this world, diversity of race, gender, and sexuality are a way of life and something to be honored.
A Modern Jane Eyre with all the bells and whistles.