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Comment: Published by Faber & Faber in 2003. Paperback, 400 pages. The book is in almost perfect condition. The book may have been read previously and may show slight signs of wear.
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Gaveston Paperback – 19 May 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (19 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571210651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571210657
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.1 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 393,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Stephanie Merritt pitches the two very different worlds of the populist mass media and the dusty old halls of academia on a collision course in her highly readable debut novel, Gaveston. Media magnate Sir Edward Hamilton Harvey decides, apparently on a whim, to invest in a multi-million pound privatised media faculty at one of England's oldest and most respected universities. While this presents various dilemmas for many of those already employed in enlightening St Dunstan's finest to the joys of the Liberal Arts, it has a particular resonance for research student Gabrielle Harvey. Sir Edward's niece, Gaby has spent the past six years or so leading a cloistered existence far removed from her uncle's media spotlight. His sudden intrusion into her decidedly untrendy world is most definitely not welcomed.

Less unwelcome still in her quiet bookish life is the charismatic yet enigmatic Dr Piers Gaveston. Installed by her uncle to head the new faculty, with little, if any, recourse to the usual channels of such appointments, the narcissistic Dr Gaveston, who seems to have materialised from nowhere, has a major impact of one kind or another on everyone he meets. Before long, and in spite of herself, Gaby is hooked. But what exactly is Gaveston's personal motivation? And what precisely is the nature of this breathtakingly good-looking man's relationship with Sir Edward? And why does Gaby's oldest friend (who happens to be chief political correspondent for one of Sir Edward's daily newspaper rivals) seem to harbour a pathological hatred for him?

Gaveston is a sparkling first novel--a fun read with lots of clever extras. Via the lovely Gaby, who's struggling to complete her doctorate on Arthurian myth, the author throws in many a historical and literary reference guaranteed to appeal to those who prefer not to sleepwalk through their reading material. (The original Piers Gaveston was a close friend of Edward II--a man with rather more influence on the King than his bishops thought healthy). Merritt has written a smart satire on the world of the mass media, the increasingly interwoven worlds of popular and traditional culture, the hypocrisy of the rich and powerful and of the public's insatiable obsession with schadenfreude. At its heart, however, Gaveston is about something far more fundamental to us all, rich or poor, powerful or not. It is about human relationships, trust and forgiveness, and learning to be tolerant of the human ability to err. --Carey Green --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Young research historian Gaby Harvey's uncle is a media baron whose latest venture is a controversial privatised media facility at the ancient and traditional university where she works. And his new appointee is the handsome Piers Galveston with whom Gabby finds herself drawn into an obsessive relationship. But why is he so interested in her - and what is his secret ? An elegant debut novel that satirises our fascination with the private lives of the powerful. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
Sexual shenanigans in the political and business sphere as a scandal is about to hit the media in the form of revelations about Sir Edward Hamilton Harvey's sexual preferences and his corrupt weapons-dealing past. Hamilton Harvey has bought himself a whole university faculty and no one can quite understand why. He has installed as Professor a complete unknown who has dabbled in film in Hollywood and in Argentina, an extraordinarily beautiful man, Piers Gaveston, who sets the world of academia alight. Hamilton Harvey's neice, Gaby, a history student engaged on her final year, is our narrator and she falls for him, even though it is obvious to everyone else that he plays for the other team. Friends try to tell her, but she is oblivious, spellbound by his mixture of sexual charm and enigmatic elusiveness.

There are people who get what they want just because they are beautiful and Piers is such a man. Merritt works hard to make her readers see this charm in action but some of what occurs is quite antithetical to this premise, including an anal rape incident. In the last third of the book everything is revealed, the dangerously immoral nature of the beautiful Piers is exposed, as is Hamilton Harvey's part in his rise from obscurity.

The writing is good, particularly convincing on the acidic tenor of dialogue between those academics who resent the shock of the new faculty and its media-loving nature. My only problem, and it was quite a difficult one to overcome, was that I did not really believe in Piers and his ability to hold in thrall members of both sexes, merely because of his beauty. Even among movie stars, great beauty is a passive attribute. Coupled with power, however, it more often arouses suspicion than trust, and is anyway, always subject to relativity.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By allanbrown67@aol.com on 11 Jun 2002
Format: Paperback
Quite unusual, I suppose, to encounter an old-fashioned page-turning, unputdownable doorstop which concerns itself with new media patronage of the public sector but this is what Merritt has achieved. Gaveston rattles along at a fair clip, taking a few well-aimed drive-by shots at the Keats v. Dylan, elitism v populism debate, always commendably in favour of the former. Our heroine, a research student in Arthurian myth, finds herself dead-centre as her media magnate uncle gifts a new centre for the study of popular culture to her venerable college and appoints as professor the handsome, dazzling, evasive Pier Gaveston, thus reframing in modern terms the legend of the inconstant King Edward III. There is, admittedly, a smattering of first-novel dialogue - archly sarcastic, mordantly deprecating - but this is by definition unavoidable in first novels. Otherwise, a sexy, engrossing tale of duplicity and decadence in ivory towers and glass-walled corporate headquarters. Highly recommended.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kate Marzillier on 17 Jun 2002
Format: Paperback
Stephanie Merritt's debut novel, Gaveston, is ambitious, well-read and gripping. This is no lazy piece of hack-work - the author makes no bones about her literary ambitions. One of the themes of the novel is high culture versus low culture, and this book firmly states that high culture matters. It refuses to talk down to its readers, while providing them with a page-turning story with a genuine mystery at its heart.

Like Robertson Davies, Merritt makes the most of her academic setting, poking fun at the excesses of committees of dons who are responsible to no one in the real world and spend their time in bitching and in-fighting (there is a particularly funny story about a don ringing up the World Service that will be awfully familiar to anyone who was ever taught by an absent-minded professor). Merritt doesn't let the media off the hook either - it is clear that the kibbitzing dons and squabbling journalists, each fiercely protective of their own patch and corrupted by their desire for power in their small world, are not so very different. But like Davies, whose influence can be felt on this novel, Merritt has ambitions beyond satirising the university campus or Fleet Street. Questions of quality, tradition versus mass culture, self-fashioning, love, betrayal and forgiveness lie at the centre of this novel.

Merritt's heroine, Gaby, is a likeable ingenue (as Piers calls her at one point in the book) - initially untouched by the grubby deals others make around her, she is the steady moral compass of the novel and those around her cannot stand the vision of themselves she reflects back at them.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Perfectionist? on 7 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gaby, niece of media mogul Sir Edward Hamilton-Harvey and a research student at a fictitious Oxbridge college, is dismayed to learn he is funding a new faculty at the college, as she sees this as an attempt to buy reputation and as an incidental to control her life in the same way as she believes he had done with her father. But as head of the college Edward appoints Piers Gaveston, to whom Gaby is instantly attracted. They embark on an ambiguous relationship, Gaby never sure about Piers's feelings and being subjected to treatment only her infatuation for him could excuse. Ultimately it emerges that the relationship between the principal characters is more complex and sinister than she could ever have realised. Main characters well drawn, if slightly larger than life, and confident and stylish writing make this an engaging and enjoyable read. (For those who enjoy this I would recommend also SM's "Real", which I also enjoyed)
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