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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true delight!,
This review is from: Exit the Actress (Paperback)What a treasure of a book!!! I loved it, loved it, loved it ... :o) "Exit the Actress" is a wonderful, absolutely delightful novel telling the story of Nell Gwyn who went from being a fairly poor girl selling oranges to becoming the favorite mistress of King Charles II.
The story is told through Nell's diary entries; through letters between the King, his mother, and his sister; through newspaper articles, memos, and more. This makes for very interesting (and often amusing) reading, to say the least. Ms. Parmar paints a vivid picture of everyday life in 17th-Century London, and there is never a dull moment in this book.
I especially loved the diary entries --- Nell has such a unique voice when telling her own story. Ms. Parmar did a really great job at bringing her to life. Nell is charming, funny, witty, and smart, and I was rooting for her from start to finish.
In fact, all of the characters --- from Nell right down to all of the secondary characters --- are drawn so vividly that they seem to spring from the page. I was really sad when the book ended because I would have happily spent another 400 pages or more with them ... :o)
If you enjoy well-written historical fiction and characters that you will truly care about, then do yourself a favor and read "Exit the Actress" and let yourself be charmed by Nell!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!,
This review is from: Exit the Actress (Paperback)I think this will be the first of many successful novels that we will see in the years to come from this talented young lady. The fact that Philippa Gregory has commented so enthusiastically also convinced me that Priya Parmar is a name to watch. Until recently Philippa Gregory was the only historical authoress I read with any regularity as I have always been impressed by the way her novels are well researched to combine fact with fiction.
This is exactly what Priya Parmar has done with her debut novel by choosing a real person Nell Gwynn as her protagonist and she has written an excellent fictional story around the facts. Nell Gwynn was in her day the most famous actress in London and the King's mistress. Written in the form of diary entries, newspaper gossip columns, letters, home remedies, invitations and court announcements the reader is quickly immersed in 17C life revolving around the Gwynn family. The diaries open when Nell is only 12 and her sister Rose 14. She lives with her mother Nora and her grandfather Dr Edward Gwynn who used to live in Oxford with his sister Margaret, but has moved to London to keep an eye on his granddaughters as their mother is always drunk and his son Thomas their father is dead.
It is after Ellen "Nell" Gwyn begins working as an orange girl in the Theatre Royal, Convent Garden, that leads to her discovery and eventual career as an actress. Her natural charm and personality also lead to her in time being noticed by the notorious ladies man King Charles II. Her diaries show Nell to be a captivating young lady who struggles to support herself rather than falling into the same traps as her alcoholic mother and sister who work as prostitutes.
I knew the story of Nell Gwynn and the historical setting before reading this book as this was a period I studied at school. I do not recall it being so interesting in our textbooks though! In my opinion Priya Parmar has succeeded in writing a realistic portrayal of characters from English history that make for a very readable novel which I highly recommend, this is the sort of novel that makes history interesting.
I was sorry to reach the last page because I wanted more!
Additional Info : This novel would make an excellent choice for Book Club Groups as not only is there so much material to discuss but included are excellent notes and an interview with Priya Parmar to guide such discussion.
5.0 out of 5 stars A vibrant, lush and colourful retelling of the Restoration period and Nell Gwyn's life,
This review is from: Exit the Actress (Paperback)I love reading historical novels because of the couple hour-long time travel they take me on. I love getting a glimpse of 15th century Engtland and the Tudor court or seeing how things (politics, wars, alliances, love and marriages) were done back then, to see how people lived their every day life at that time.
Exit the Actress brought me to a time period previously unknown to me: the Restoration period. Through Priya Parmar's debut novel I got to know England of the 17th century, and most specifically the world of theatre at that time.
Exit the Actress tells us the life story of Ellen Gwyn; how a young girl from modest background, a simple 'orange girl' rose to fame as one of the most renowned and beloved actresses of the time and became the mistress and love of the king, Charles II.
Ellen is a very likable young girl, her naivety and candour make her a trusted and genuine character. Her warmth, honesty and vivacity shine through the story and make it easy to understand why everyone flocked to her 'light', and wished to be in her entourage.
Besides Ellen as the protagonist, Priya Parmar introduced a dozen of well developed, three dimensional historical characters. My personal favourites were Hart (warmhearted, generous, loving Hart) who was Ellen's mentor, lover and a bit of a father-figure/protector, Rochester with his dark intensity and Teddy (famous actor of the time renowned for playing female roles). Teddy brought so much light, colour, humour and levity to the story! His catchphrase "quel glamour" always managed to make me smile and worked wonderfully peppered in the text, subtly nuancing Ellen's narrative. What I found amazing is that I expected the theatre company to be ruled by rivalry, cattiness but instead Hart and the company were like a warm loving family to Ellen, and seeing her less than ideal childhood it was heartwarming to see how these people genuinely cared about her.
One of the aspects of this novel I loved the most is that although most historical novels only focus on the romance storyline, in Exit the Actress Priya Parmar first and foremost focused on Ellen and her life: how she became the person she was, her family, her friends, her career and her lovers. I loved how with Exit the Actress Priya Parmar declared that Nell shouldn't only be remembered due to her being mistress to Charles II but because of everything she had achieved and the person she had been, and being a royal mistress was only one small (even if important) side of her life.
"Your sparkle came from your secret, Ellen. [...]"
"My secret?" I asked not following.
"You were yourself by your own right. However much it may have looked like you were in someone's possession. That was your great secret. That is why you sparkled beyond all others. You were free."
Though Exit the Actress is Ellen's story told mainly from her narrative through her journal entries, I enjoyed that Priya Parmar broadened the picture and scope of the novel by including snippets of correspondence between Charles II and his sister, gazette articles, home recipes and minutes of government meetings. They all helped in shaping in the readers' mind what London and England at that time must have been: bustling, colourful, busy and on the verge of important changes. Priya Parmar excelled in capturing the atmosphere of the time and brininging back to life a bustling historical period overlooked and long forgotten.
It was also wonderful how in the portrayal of Charles II in Exit the Actress Priya Parmar showed us the man behind the crown and title of king. Through Charles' correspondence with Minette and his mother we saw a personal, unreserved, playful yet due to its honesty vulnerable portrayal of the man ruling England.
The Queen Mother's letter to Charles II:
"For Heaven's sake Charles, stop frolicking through the countryside like a milkmaid and get a tighter rein on your government. [...] How can you be writing to King Louis for money? Where is your own money? Taxes, Charles, taxes create a revenue. This should not be difficult for you to grasp. You are king - rule for God's sake."
Exit the Actress is not a hictorical fairy tale, it retains its connection to reality by showing the shadier side of the time: the dirt, poverty, prostitution and devastation caused by the plague and the big fire of London. And thanks to the narrative not glossing over these important facets of everyday life back then, the story remains authentic and believable.
Verdict: Priya Parmar's wonderful debut novel is breathtaking in giving us such a vibrant, lush and colourful retelling of the Restoration period and the theatre scene back then. Priya Parmar's talent - besides painting the canvas with such colourful strokes - lies in how real the world she depicts seems: her characters step off the pages and the readers don't feel that the story they are reading about is 400 years away. Oh no, she brings 17th century London and long deceased characters back to life with such vibrant vivacity that the story comes to life.
Exit the Actress is a riveting debut novel, which I recommend to all historical fiction fans!
5.0 out of 5 stars NELL GWYNN RETAKES THE SPOTLIGHT,
This review is from: Exit the Actress (Paperback)A little over a month ago, I had the pleasure of attending Miss Parmar's book reading/signing at a Barnes and Noble bookstore, where she autographed my copy of this book.
Prior to reading this book, all I knew about Nell Gwynn was that she was a famous actress in her day and the mistress of King Charles II of England. Full stop.
Now, having finished this book today, I very much enjoyed the entree Miss Parmar gave me into Nell's life, as well as into Restoration England. Nell seemed very much like a real person to me, which says a lot about a writer's ability to breathe life into a figure long dead and somewhat obscured by history.
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous fabulous book,
This review is from: Exit the Actress (Paperback)This book is genuinely brilliant.
I have been looking forward to this book for a while and absolutely devoured it when it arrived. It is a beautiful piece; fascinating, compelling and touching. It compelled me to write this review.
I am a massive historical fiction fan and so have read a lot about Nell and The Restoration. This is, by far, the best account that I have read. Parmar chooses an extraordinary and bold style and we are immersed in Nell's letters, diaries and other extracts of period publications. Although I worried that this would all feel artificial, in fact, it works brilliantly. I felt like I got a real feel for Nell and all the extraordinary characters that surround her.
I can't recommend Exit the Actress enough, although I wouldn't plan on doing anything else on the day you pick it up. I am really impressed that this is a first time writer, it is great.
Buy it. Read it. Hold your breath for what she does next
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book,
This review is from: Exit the Actress (Paperback)fun easy writing;nell is a heroin you just have to like
the places and people are described realisticaly
read the book
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Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar (Paperback - 8 Feb 2011)