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91 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In this age, all fortunes are made in court."
Robert Merivel, who has studied to be a physician, is appointed, ironically, to be veterinarian for the spaniels of King Charles II, who has recently been restored to the throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell. Merivel enjoys the gaiety and frivolity of court life, and, a bit of a fool, he entertains the king. The king's decision to placate one of his lovers by...
Published on 20 Sep 2005 by Mary Whipple

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but the main character was unconvincing
The writer had researched the Restoration period well and therefore much of the description seemed authentic. The main character, Merivel, however was both unlikeable and unconvincing. I read the author's own explanation of why she chose this period and this character (that she was trying to draw some comparison between the selfishness of the Thatcher period and that of...
Published 13 months ago by P. Saunders


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91 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In this age, all fortunes are made in court.", 20 Sep 2005
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
Robert Merivel, who has studied to be a physician, is appointed, ironically, to be veterinarian for the spaniels of King Charles II, who has recently been restored to the throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell. Merivel enjoys the gaiety and frivolity of court life, and, a bit of a fool, he entertains the king. The king's decision to placate one of his lovers by marrying off his favorite mistress to Robert Merivel, spells the beginning of the end for Merivel's tenuous fortunes. Warned not to fall in love with his wife, Celia Clemence, since the king intends to continue seeing her, Merivel cannot help himself, and he is cast out, losing not only the king's affection, but also his house and, of course his wife.
Joining a group of men who work at an asylum for the insane, Merivel learns that there are deeper concerns in life than the hedonism of his life at court, and he develops genuine affection for several of the kindly Quaker men with whom he works. When he transgresses the society's rules, however, he is cast out from there, too, ending up in London at the time of the Great Plague and eventually the Great London Fire.
Painting vivid pictures of Merivel's life--at court, at the asylum in Whittlesea, and in the neighborhoods of London--author Rose Tremain brings the age, its customs, its science, and its social structure to life. The years of 1664 - 1666 are especially difficult, and as Merivel lives through the horrors of the Plague and the panic of the Great Fire, which Tremain recreates with the drama they deserve, the reader can see Merivel becoming less a fool and more a human. Like the restoration of the king to the throne, Merivel's "restoration" to dignity takes place after a period of dark reflection and self-examination, and both Merivel and the country learn from their travails.
Tremain develops Merivel's personal transformation with sensitivity, finesse, and much ironic humor, and when, at last, he is noticed again by the court, his understanding of himself and his role in the world is far more profound than it was before. Depicting the personal and the philosophical turmoils of these early Restoration years with a historian's eye for detail and a detached observer's sense of wit, Tremain illustrates the contradictions of this period realistically and often with dark humor. A fine historical novel, Restoration transcends its period, offering observations, themes, and lessons for the present day. Mary Whipple
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different but truly superb, 22 Aug 2009
By 
B. Kelly "Working Girl" (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
I have read other books by Rose Tremain and found this very different. You have to stick with this book in the beginning but I found it a really absorbing and highly entertaining read once it got going. Her main character, Merivel is superbly characterized and on the surface quite loathsome but you end up feeling very fond of him because he knows his own weaknesses and is always trying to improve himself. I laughed out loud on several occassions because she vividly depicts the scenes so well. It is historical and she relates the lavish lives of the royal court in contrast to the extreme poverty on the streets with great skill - it is all done within Merivel's narration which I found captivating. Try it - I am sure you will enjoy this unusual journey.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The heart exposed!, 4 Nov 2006
By 
Room For A View - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
For me this was a wonderful historic novel written with delightful elegance by a very talented writer. Tremain captures, displaying erudite control, humour and pathos, the licentiousness of the court of Charles II, recently restored following the trauma of civil war and Puritan rule. The principal character, Robert Merivel (who develops an Earl of Rochester appetite for magisterial fun and frolics) finds that his fortuitous veterinarian skills grants him access to a world of aristocratic patronage and privilege. Dismissing the cautious advice of the `saintly' Pearce (close friend, Puritan and fellow medical student), Merivel embarks on an obsequious and opulent lifestyle, indulging himself in beribboned, frivolous antics, accompanying a flamboyant lifestyle to support his position as the `protector' of the beautiful Celia, the King's mistress. Tremain's vivid portrayal of Restoration England is not just a lewd drama of social excesses but is also a story of scientific enquiry. And Pearce's humanity and altruistic medical vocation acts as a rewarding juxtaposition to Merivel's hedonism. The friendship between these two characters is sensitively developed and it is through Pearce that Merivel eventually recognises the superficiality of his existence and the rewards of a life centred on a sincere love for others.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best..., 27 Oct 2009
This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
If I finish a book and declare it to be one of the best I have ever read, I normally wait a few days before writing a review. If my opinion hasn't changed by the time I take up my pen, I restate the opinion. It doesn't happen often. Rose Tremain's Restoration remains one of the best books I have ever read.

It's a book with everything a good novel should have. There's a thoroughly endearing, involving and interesting central character. There's a wonderful backdrop in mid-seventeenth century England. There's intellectual pursuit, carnal knowledge, earthy lifestyle, religious revelation and a good deal of excellent cooking. There are complicated relationships, both unrequited and requited love, commissions from royalty, the proximity of madness and, to keep everything in perspective, a keen sense of the absurd. And, alongside all of that, we live through some great historical events in the restoration of the monarchy, the plague and a Great Fire.

But central to everything is the remarkable Robert Merivel. He's a talented individual who threatens to achieve but rarely does. He's never a success but manages to stumble upon a succession of remarkable achievements. He drops out of his studies as a physician, but practices as a doctor. He gets a special job from the king, but fluffs it. He lands a job that's a meal ticket for life and gets kicked out.

Through Merivel's eyes we experience the sounds, smells and lifestyle of London, the opulence of high society, courtesy of royal patronage and then the frugality of religious commitment. We also appreciate how knowledge and thus assumptions can change. We enter a world where Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood is still novel. When, as medical students, Merivel and his colleague Pearce discover a man with an open wound on the chest that allows his beating heart to be touched, the pair marvel at how the organ that is supposed to be the centre of all emotion has itself no feeling. In our rational age, of course, no-one refers to heart as having anything whatsoever to do with emotion... One wonders which of our currently unquestioned assumptions will be as quaintly absurd three hundred years from now.

Celia is one of the king's mistresses. As a cover for his continued liaisons with her, he suggests Merivel marry her in name only. It all goes wrong, of course, when our rather shaggy and unattractive hero, seen as something of a joke by his contemporaries, falls for her. He spins a yarn or two and is found out, but along the way we feel we have experienced what it is like to seek and receive patronage. We also feel the subsequent fall from favour.

When Merivel's life changes, we too are drawn into his new world, a world in which his unfinished and thus unconsummated study of medicine can be usefully employed. He becomes involved with his work, eventually too involved, and there is yet another fall from grace back into the company of the hoi polloi.

But in this era, everyone's life experience seems close to some edge or other. There's plague about, and disease of all kinds. Poverty both threatens and beckons, and yet daily the needs of flesh must be satisfied. And in this respect Merivel is both a success and a survivor. Despite being a figure of fun and an incompetent, he lives life to the full. Through him we taste, smell and sense his age and, in the end, we also understand it a little more than we did.

Restoration is strong on plot. What happens to Robert Merivel is as important as how it happens, so my review reveals little of the detail of the character's progress through life. But it is always an endearing and enlightening journey, and reveals aspects of humanity that are surely universal and eternal, as eternal perhaps as Merivel's own room at the top of his tower. Restoration remains one of the best books I have ever read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In this age, all fortunes are made in court.", 16 Jan 2006
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
Robert Merivel, who has studied to be a physician, is appointed, ironically, to be veterinarian for the spaniels of King Charles II, who has recently been restored to the throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell. Merivel enjoys the gaiety and frivolity of court life, and, a bit of a fool, he entertains the king. The king's decision to placate one of his lovers by marrying off his favorite mistress to Robert Merivel, spells the beginning of the end for Merivel's tenuous fortunes. Warned not to fall in love with his wife, Celia Clemence, since the king intends to continue seeing her, Merivel cannot help himself, and he is cast out, losing not only the king's affection, but also his house and, of course his wife.
Joining a group of men who work at an asylum for the insane, Merivel learns that there are deeper concerns in life than the hedonism of his life at court, and he develops genuine affection for several of the kindly Quaker men with whom he works. When he transgresses the society's rules, however, he is cast out from there, too, ending up in London at the time of the Great Plague and eventually the Great London Fire.
Painting vivid pictures of Merivel's life--at court, at the asylum in Whittlesea, and in the neighborhoods of London--author Rose Tremain brings the age, its customs, its science, and its social structure to life. The years of 1664 - 1666 are especially difficult, and as Merivel lives through the horrors of the Plague and the panic of the Great Fire, which Tremain recreates with the drama they deserve, the reader can see Merivel becoming less a fool and more a human. Like the restoration of the king to the throne, Merivel's "restoration" to dignity takes place after a period of dark reflection and self-examination, and both Merivel and the country learn from their travails.
Tremain develops Merivel's personal transformation with sensitivity, finesse, and much ironic humor, and when, at last, he is noticed again by the court, his understanding of himself and his role in the world is far more profound than it was before. Depicting the personal and the philosophical turmoils of these early Restoration years with a historian's eye for detail and a detached observer's sense of wit, Tremain illustrates the contradictions of this period realistically and often with dark humor. A fine historical novel, Restoration transcends its period, offering observations, themes, and lessons for the present day. Mary Whipple
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical parable, 14 July 2010
By 
Donald Hughes (Ruislip) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
This book was a pleasant surprise, as I am no lover of historical novels. The story is summarised excellently in Mary Whipple's review, and I can only add that it an heartening parable of a feckless, lecherous dandy eventually being redeemed by his own misfortunes and the suffering of others. The story is plausible and beautifully written, and I will read more by this author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 7 Jun 2009
I first read this book ten years ago, and it really did something lasting to me. It's quite simply one of the best novels I have ever read. Rose Tremain is always a brilliant, precise and poised writer and I hope one day she will be awarded the Booker prize that she so richly deserves. Until I read Restoration I was not a great fan of historical fiction, but a friend thrust it at me - and I'm glad she did, because the wonderful, humane story of the intensely fallible and lovable Robert Merivel, has become firmly lodged in my heart. If I were a writer, this is the book I would most like to have written. As a reader, it's one I'm grateful to have read. And I will treasure it always.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Restorative Restoration, 20 Oct 2009
By 
Mrs. L. GILL (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Restoration (Paperback)
Having discovered Rose Tremain via her novel " The Road Home" I am working my way through her previous work. I have found each of the novels thoughtful and entertaining. Restoration is very satisfying; informative, beautifully written and, in the first half of the novel, very humerous.I shall continue adding to my library with Ms Tremain's remaining novels.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In this age, all fortunes are made in court.", 3 Jan 2006
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Robert Merivel, who has studied to be a physician, is appointed, ironically, to be veterinarian for the spaniels of King Charles II, who has recently been restored to the throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell. Merivel enjoys the gaiety and frivolity of court life, and, a bit of a fool, he entertains the king. The king's decision to placate one of his lovers by marrying off his favorite mistress to Robert Merivel, spells the beginning of the end for Merivel's tenuous fortunes. Warned not to fall in love with his wife, Celia Clemence, since the king intends to continue seeing her, Merivel cannot help himself, and he is cast out, losing not only the king's affection, but also his house and, of course his wife.
Joining a group of men who work at an asylum for the insane, Merivel learns that there are deeper concerns in life than the hedonism of his life at court, and he develops genuine affection for several of the kindly Quaker men with whom he works. When he transgresses the society's rules, however, he is cast out from there, too, ending up in London at the time of the Great Plague and eventually the Great London Fire.
Painting vivid pictures of Merivel's life--at court, at the asylum in Whittlesea, and in the neighborhoods of London--author Rose Tremain brings the age, its customs, its science, and its social structure to life. The years of 1664 - 1666 are especially difficult, and as Merivel lives through the horrors of the Plague and the panic of the Great Fire, which Tremain recreates with the drama they deserve, the reader can see Merivel becoming less a fool and more a human. Like the restoration of the king to the throne, Merivel's "restoration" to dignity takes place after a period of dark reflection and self-examination, and both Merivel and the country learn from their travails.
Tremain develops Merivel's personal transformation with sensitivity, finesse, and much ironic humor, and when, at last, he is noticed again by the court, his understanding of himself and his role in the world is far more profound than it was before. Depicting the personal and the philosophical turmoils of these early Restoration years with a historian's eye for detail and a detached observer's sense of wit, Tremain illustrates the contradictions of this period realistically and often with dark humor. A fine historical novel, Restoration transcends its period, offering observations, themes, and lessons for the present day. Mary Whipple
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but the main character was unconvincing, 23 July 2013
By 
P. Saunders (Herts, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Restoration (Kindle Edition)
The writer had researched the Restoration period well and therefore much of the description seemed authentic. The main character, Merivel, however was both unlikeable and unconvincing. I read the author's own explanation of why she chose this period and this character (that she was trying to draw some comparison between the selfishness of the Thatcher period and that of the Restoraion period and this she certainly succeeded in doing) but Merivel himself was so much of a parody of a real person that it was never, for me, a riveting read.
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