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A Gambling Man [Paperback]

Jenny Uglow
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

6 May 2010

Charles II was thirty when he crossed the Channel in fine May weather in 1660. His Restoration was greeted with maypoles and bonfires, like spring after long years of Cromwell's rule. But there was no going back, no way he could 'restore' the old. Certainty had vanished. The divinity of kingship fled with his father's beheading. 'Honour' was now a word tossed around in duels. 'Providence' could no longer be trusted. As the country was rocked by plague, fire and war, people searched for new ideas by which to live. Exactly ten years later Charles would stand again on the shore at Dover, laying the greatest bet of his life in a secret deal with his cousin, Louis XIV.

The Restoration decade was one of experiment: from the science of the Royal Society to the startling role of credit and risk, from the shocking licence of the court to the failed attempts at toleration of different beliefs. Negotiating all these, Charles, the 'slippery sovereign', played odds and took chances, dissembling and manipulating his followers. The theatres were restored, but the king was the supreme actor. Yet while his grandeur, his court and his colourful sex life were on display, his true intentions lay hidden.

A Gambling Man is a portrait of Charles II, exploring his elusive nature through the lens of these ten vital years - and a portrait of a vibrant, violent, pulsing world, in which the risks the king took forged the fate of the nation, on the brink of the modern world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571217346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571217342
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'"A Gambling Man" is a glorious romp of a book, filled with glittering anecdotes about Britain at its most glamorous and easy-going best ... A double biography of both a man and his age which gleams with a rare kind of intimacy. Here is popular history at its compelling best.' --***** Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

'This is a terrific book, sparklingly written. Even the most ingrained republican ought to be enthralled.' --Salley Vickers, Independent

'This is panoramic history of a high order ... To understand how Charles learnt the difficult art of kingship, read this book.' --Graham Parry, Guardian --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

From acclaimed biographer Jenny Uglow, a portrait of Charles II and the first decade of the Restoration: a time of glamour and gossip, charade and risk.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gambling Man 25 Dec 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent book. Thoroughly researched and written in a manner that brings the characters to life. It gives a whole new insight in King Charles as not just a womaniser but as someone who held the different factions, both at court and in the country,at bay. He struggled to achieve harmony amongst the religious groups. Jenny Uglow makes it all come to life; a real page turner for the history buff and others. Bill Duff
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Read 13 Feb 2010
This is one of the most readable credible history books I have ever read, and having studied history at university, I have read quite a few. My knowledge about this particular period of British history was not particularly strong, but by the end of this book I really felt I had a good understanding of what the 1660s were like in Britain. Perhaps a little more information on the lives of ordinary people would have been nice, but to be fair that was not the purpose of this book. This book is a fantastic story of Kingship and the Royal court, and the remarkable women who were such a feature of Charles II's court. The 1660s were clearly an incredible time in Britain's history, well worthy of having an entire book devoted to the decade, and Jenny Uglow transports you to Charles' court so vividly that you feel almost as if you were. If only.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read 7 Jan 2010
This is a readable, informative and enjoyable survey of a fascinating man and period in British history. Jenny Uglow is brilliant at making history interesting. The book covers just ten years from the Restoration in 1660 to 1670, when Charles was establishing himself in a changing world, and the book covers not just govenrment and politics but developments in science, society, morals and more.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate history 6 April 2010
Jenny Uglow has painted a vivid picture of what was one of the most amazing and important periods of British history. Her portrait of Charles II communicates a clear vision of what he achieved - including the re-acceptance of the monarchy; a careful balance between conflicting religious beliefs and between the people, the state and the crown; the encouragement of science and the arts (and horse racing); the maintenance of Britain's position in the world - from very shaky financial foundations; and the rebuilding of the City of London after the fire. She shows how Charles finessed brilliantly in his dealings with his people, with the ambitious and schemeing aristocracy, with his cousin Louis XIV and with the ever-threatening Dutch. His relationship with a multitude of beautiful and clever women is dealt with in a matter-of-fact way with no trace of self-righteous commentary. But one never gets up close and personal with Charles - he always appears as a sparkling yet remote character. Uglow is particularly good on the complexity of the family relationships at the very top of the three key European powers of the time, and she has some beautifully-written sections which include Charles's return from exile and - particularly movingly - the part played by Charles's adored, but relatively short-lived sister, Minette, in his clever scheming over the Treaty of Dover. A really good book. Our future Charles III will find it totally fascinating!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I knew almost nothing about this period in history (the Restoration of Charles II), but having read Jenny Uglow's detailed account of the first ten years of Charles II's reign will be looking out for a book which covers the rest of his reign, plus the brief reign of his younger brother who became James II. In fact that's my only criticism of this otherwise excellent book -- by compressing the later part of Charles's reign into just a few pages it leaves you wanting more.

Charles come over as a thoroughly likeable man, albeit a serial womanizer, doing his best to balance opposing forces in often difficult circumstances. The large-than-life characters come alive under Janny Uglow's pen, making A GAMBLING MAN read more like a novel than the kind of history most of us were taught in school. Oh and the title is inspired!

Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book about a fascinating man 2 Oct 2010
By Didier TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It seems I am very taken up by the Stuart period in English history these days. It all started when I read Diane Purkiss' The English Civil War: A People's History, followed by Antonia Fraser's King Charles II, and now this. And, largely because Uglow's book is so good, I find that I still have an appetite for more!

Anyway, although the 'bare facts' of Charles' life were already known to me from Fraser's (also excellent) book, it was fascinating to read about the same man from another author's perspective, and concentrating largely on the first decade after the Restoration (1660 - 1670). And what a fascinating, vibrant time that must have been! Wouldn't it be great to have known and mixed with people as different as Samuel Pepys, John Bunyan, Dryden, Hobbes and Milton? To gossip with cronies in the coffee shops about Barbara Castlemaine and Nell Gwyn? To hear about the experiments conducted by the newly founded Royal Society? And perhaps witness the Great Fire of London? I would sign up any day for a trip back to those days (provided I can also get the guarantee I will not be operated for 'the stone' - or anything else for that matter...).

The more I read about Charles II the better I like the man. It is of course a matter of debate to what degree we can ever know the man (or anyone for that matter). After all, he's been dead for over 300 years, and he was as Uglow terms it a gambling man that kept his cards close to his chest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Charles II exposed
I have read several books on Charles II and this one, more than most, dispels the myth of Charles II as being the pleasant merry monarch of popular history.
Published 7 months ago by MR H F ROBINSON
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book
A fun read if you want to read about Charles II and what he got up to (so far as we can tell).
Published 8 months ago by Bob
5.0 out of 5 stars life lesson Nothing is as it seems.
I felt simultaneous dislike sympathy and admiration for how this man juggled the demands made of him. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Patricia Wilkes
5.0 out of 5 stars A safe bet
A Gambling man is a book that deals with the first 10 years of the reign of Charles 11 and covers the crucial period when the Restoration Settlement was introduced and bedded in... Read more
Published 13 months ago by DN PERKS
5.0 out of 5 stars Jenny Uglow on Charles II
An excellent read - history at its most approachable. Fascinating insight into the life and court of Charles II and his families. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jackie Colburn
4.0 out of 5 stars very informative book about the Restoration.
Jenny Uglow has here produced a very good account of the Restoration and the facade Charles II presented to his own reign and to his more intimate acquaintances. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Cella Mauro
5.0 out of 5 stars Gambling Man
A second hand book which was just like new. A very good introduction into the life of Charles the Second. Well packaged as usual.
Published 20 months ago by florida
3.0 out of 5 stars A 'Rambling' Man
In spite of being really interested in the period of the Restoration, I found that the trouble with this book is that it is written like a PhD thesis. Read more
Published on 9 July 2011 by Miss Mapp
5.0 out of 5 stars A gamble that paid off
Charles II is, in many ways, both too easy and too difficult a subject for a biography. He is one of those great defining characters of the British monarchy - like Henry VIII,... Read more
Published on 14 May 2011 by B. Bennetts
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant account of a complex monarch
I have read other books by Jenny Uglow and find her one of the best authors of popular historical analysis that there is. Read more
Published on 28 April 2011 by Mike Davey
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