Saturday, September 14, 2013

Merivel by Rose Tremain

Merivel and Charles II continue their adventures, though this time they are old 

Robert Merivel, seventeen years after returning to his estate with his infant daughter, has come to a crossroads.  His beloved daughter will be leaving for an extended period, and Merivel doesn’t know what to do with himself.  His faithful servant Will (suffering from dementia or at the very least old age) brings him the Wedge.  The Wedge is Merivel’s account of his adventures written seventeen years before.  Or as we know it, Restoration.  In order to enjoy Merivel, I don’t think it is necessary to have read Restoration, as this is a standalone book, but it would be helpful and add to the enjoyment, as themes of proper behavior, equality, and sex echo and bounce off each other.  Contemplating the Wedge encourages Merivel to take up his adventures once again.

Reading this book was such a pleasure (the pages flew by) that it made me realize I have been lately reading books that are a chore.  Part of the reason is that Merivel (and his mentor Charles II) enjoy life so much and that love of life is communicated to the reader.  We follow Merivel on his adventures to Versailles, with a captive bear, to Switzerland, and to London again to the death of the king.  The pleasure of reading the book comes from Merivel's unique take on things – there isn’t a traditional plot, apart from time wearing things down.  However, I think Restoration is probably the greater book - there is a clear cut tension between the life approaches taken by the King and by Merivel's good friend, the Quaker Pearse.
One of the reasons why I admire Rose Tremain is that all of her novels are completely unique.  She excels in character creation, and this book recycled the same characters but they are growing older.  Merivel is foolish and wise at the same time.


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