The Visit of the Royal Physician Paperback
SHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARDIt is the 1760s, the height of the Enlightenment.
The young King of Denmark, Christian VII, is a half-wit.
His queen, the English princess Caroline Mathilde, has fallen in love with his most trusted advisor, the court physician Struensee.
Guldberg, a cold-blooded religious fanatic, is determined to annihilate the Enlightenment ideas Struensee is introducing to Denmark - whoever prevails in their bitter ideological battle will control not only the king but the nation state.
Adultery, insanity, back-stabbing and blue blood... Enquist brilliantly recasts a dramatic era of Danish history, weaving a wide range of historical characters - Voltaire and Diderot, Catherine the Great and George III - into a tale of ruthless political ambition and personal betrayal.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 01/04/2003
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9780099447054
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Review by wandering_star
The royal physician of the title is a man called Struensee, and the visit refers to the time he spent as effective regent of Denmark in 1771 and 1772, pushing through a vast swathe of Enlightenment-inspired reforms.I knew nothing about this period of history before reading this. But even so I could tell that this was an inspired reimagining. Enqvist takes the dry historical record, and adds the passion back in - fear, betrayal, guilt. (The book is full of madness of different kinds, from broken-willed feeble-mindedness to a lust for power and control.) The narrative is laced with references to contemporary records which each give us glimpses of the extreme and chaotic events, but it's the passion and madness and theatre which start to make sense of them.This might make the book sound like a historical romp, which it isn't. It's dense with images and metaphor, yet Enqvist maintains a dry and oracular tone throughout, as if he is trying to make rational sense of what happened - even though the book as a whole suggests that nothing in history makes sense if you ignore the human emotions involved.