- Publication Date:
- 02 July 2009
- Historical Fiction
Showing 1-4 out of 13 reviews. Previous | Next
This novel had me engaged from the first page, and my interest never lagged. Tremain depicts the rise and fall of Robert Merivel, a young and gifted doctor, in the court of Charles II. Along the way, she does a fine job of recreating Restoration society, from the competitive, luxurious court to the struggles of the poor in the countryside, from a group of Quakers devoting their lives to the service of others to Londoners scrambling to keep up with the pace of the times. But the greater part of the story is Merivel's journey of self-discovery and his realization that those things he had been pursuing were not necessarily what will make him happy. Tremain's portrait of the king as a man more wise than his surface might reveal is another fine touch. Beautifully written and researched; highly recommended.
first half of this book is one of the funniest i have read; the main character Merivel is a total fop, very witty, i was laughing out loud, loved it, and the next part of the book, as Merival begins his own 'restoration' is moving in a totally different way. there can't be that many hilarious historical literary novels, i'd put this book in my all time top ten and would love it if someone could recommend something similar
A young man, son of the king's glove maker and trained as a physician, gets a post at court and becomes completely enamoured of the life of the times (self indulgence, luxury, profligacy—it's interesting that in an interview Tremain said she had fundamental objections to the ethos of Thatcher's Britain but didn't want to confront it directly so picked another period with similar values). Because he actually touched a human heart (in a man who, after an accident, had a hole in his chest that didn't heal—Tremain took that from a real incident) and found that it felt nothing, the King decided Merviel—that's his name—would be immune to real love and marries him to one of his mistresses. Gives him an estate and riches. Of course Merivel promptly falls in love with the forbidden wife and is banished, taking refuge in an insane asylum (a New Bedlam) run by a Quaker physician with whom he want to school. Merivel narrates the story and he's intelligent, sensitive, and basically honest about his own flaws. He made me laugh. Tremain’s primary accomplishment in this novel is Merivel’s voice which she handles beautifully.Because Merivel is not a Quaker and because he can think for himself he has some new ideas about treating the insane, namely that one should look at what lead up to madness, as one looks at the symptoms of physical disease. Tremain has been accused of anachronism in making Merivel has somewhat modern ideas about insanity, but I have always thought that new ideas have been “brewing:” for a long time in many different people before finally find a time and a place and a spokesperson for them. It’s not inconceivable to me that there was a Merivel in the 18th century.I think Tremain is a novelist whose other work I’ll investigate. She seems to tackle a wide variety of projects and to try new fictional experiences. I also like her sense of history in this novel. She’s obviously researched the period very carefully and rendered its ethos expertly, but like all really good fiction it’s written for her own contemporaries and addresses contemporary concerns.
This is one of Rose Tremain's best novels, her ability to create colour, scenery and emotion is brilliant. The film of this is also good, and it was quite pleasant to imagine Robert Downey Jr as I was reading!
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