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on 23 June 2016
With each book that I read, my respect for Rose Tremain grows. She has an astounding talent for creating fully-developed, believable characters regardless of time, location, or circumstance, and weaving them into a story that takes the reader on a marvellous journey of discovery. Restoration is yet another feather in her cap.

Restoration promises an excellent plot, and delivers several times over. What a wonderful joyous novel this is! Merival, the protagonist, is by turns a scholar, a buffoon, a wit, and a fool. He is the embodiment of the Restoration in human form, rising in favour at court almost in spite of himself. When King Charles II selects Merival to play the cuckold, by entering a platonic marriage with one of the King's mistresses, we know that Merival's nature will render him unable to fulfill this role satisfactorily. And so his downward spiral begins.

Merival's predicament, in a lesser writer's hands, might run the risk of high melodrama, but Tremain makes his failure as funny as it is pathetic so, while we laugh at his foibles, we cannot help but root for this lovable rogue because his faults are the perfect foil for his aspirations. So we cheer him on as he stumbles and falters to find a way back into the King's affection, searches, indeed, for his own personal restoration. Along the way, we meet a host of characters, each in their own way revealing hidden depths in Merival until we know the man as well as we know ourselves, and are captivated till the very last page, hoping dearly for his salvation whilst fearing that his run of failure is neverending.

Tremain herself was so enthralled with Merival as a character that she wrote a sequel (Merival, A Man of His Time) and I look forward to reading the continuing misadventures of this amorous buffoon, not least because few authors have the ability to snatch the breath from my lungs with the perfection of their writing.

Long live Merival! And longer still live Rose Tremain!
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on 13 November 2015
It’s the 1660s, in the years following the restoration of Charles II, but the restoration in this book is that of low-born but socially ambitious Robert Merivel to his self-respect and modest worth. He has trained with the best, in an age of medical enquiry, as a physician, but he throws away his career for a place at court, tending the King’s spaniels, playing the fool and submitting willingly to be the cuckolded husband of the King’s mistress. His compliance, instead of guaranteeing his place at court, leaves him marooned on an estate in Norfolk, playing at country squire and interior decorator. When even that is taken from him, Merivel becomes Robert, caring for the mad in a fenland asylum run by Quakers. But he’s as fallible in his new role as in his court position and finishes up returning to London, in the midst of the plague. One moment of renewed favour from the King, and all is swept away by the Great Fire. But somehow, somehow, in the end he comes good, still fallible, neither success not failure, neither great man, nor saint, nor fool, just Robert Merivel.
It’s a beautifully written book, in a convincing 17th century style, sympathetically portraying a host of characters, from the scientifically curious King to the austere Puritan Pearce , but most especially the hapless Robert, and capturing the liberty and limitations of the period.
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on 1 April 2016
This is a very good book. The writing is excellent and you very quickly become immersed in the life of the protagonist, Robert Merivel, and in the ways of Restoration England. In her introduction to the novel Tremain makes parallels between the hedonistic lifestyle described in the novel and life during Thatcher's Britain - very interesting. Merivel is a great character - he is very human and his failings are what draw the reader into his story and make you care about what happens to him. The historical detail is great and her turn of phrase is brilliant - I found myself highlighting passages just to remember her descriptions, which is not something I do often.
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VINE VOICEon 8 January 2013
As with Music & Silence, this is a historical novel with modern inflections. There are familiar Rose Tremain elements: the supernatural may play a part (both Wise Nell and the astrologer seem to be pretty accurate in their prognostications), although we can never be quite sure. Like other Tremain novels, Restoration is difficult to pigeonhole - part fable ('rags to riches'), part magical realism, part warts-and-all documentary. Most importantly, Tremain distinctively lets the characters and events speak for themselves, and we never feel the author's presence. More than ever, the characters seem unusually real.

Tremain's language, delivered through the medium of its bewigged and dandified hero, Merivel, is almost always convincing, making us readily want to enter its C17 world - and reluctant to leave it. All the more convincing, even, for using vocabulary that I, at least, have never encountered: 'a trundle of drunks', and 'broddled the stove' being just two examples. Admittedly, there were a couple of occasions where the language seemed too modern. A salesman's buy one, get one free offer is using a late C20 marketing ploy (isn't he?), and Merivel's worry that his attempt to relax the troubled minds of the lunatics 'isn't working' again seems discordantly anachronistic. But language is generally a supreme achievement in this book. It rarely, if ever, prevents us from entering Merivel's thinking and feeling brain, or from drawing us into the vividly recreated world around him.

Restoration is an apt title. It isn't just Charles II who is restored, but Merivel himself (exactly how, you'll have to find out). And, of course, he's also titular hero of the new sequel, so that his whole world is restored to us.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 September 2011
How does Rose Tremain do it ? She writes with authority informative ,well researched amusing and totally different books time after time . However she does it I am only thankful that she does for once again I have enjoyed her work immensely.
With a very few exception her books are set in fairly recent times . This is one of those exceptions set in the reign of Charles II . The title reflects the time in history , but is also the crux of the tale . Merivel a young anatomy student ingratiates himself with King Charles and in return for marrying the King's mistress [thus creating a smoke screen under cover of which the King can continue to take his pleasure in that quarter] receives a country estate, a handsome income and a fine title . Life for Merivel could not be better as long as he remembers that his "wife" must always be off limits to him . At first this is easy as his "paper" wife hates and despises him , is far off in London and he in her absence enjoys a bawdy life of wine and wenches with no interest in the marital bed .
Alas err long he learns that Charles can be a wrathful enemy who casts him out. How can he be reinstated in the King's good graces ? Merivel's endeavours at restoration and self discovery along the way take up part two of this thoroughly entertaining novel .
As with other Rose Tremain books, Restoration is populated by variety of totally believable , well drawn characters . The detailed descriptions of life for rich and poor , royalty and peasant at that time fascinates and the final outcome holds one's interest to the end.
I wish I were starting it again .
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 June 2011
Rose Tremaine has invented the character of Robert Merivel, who tells his story in the first person; and a frank and, in the first part of the book, an unflattering picture he gives of himself (rather as Pepys was doing at the same time). Humbly-born (his father had been a glove-maker), he had all the same had a medical education at Cambridge and in Pavia. He was introduced to the Court of Charles II as a vet and the keeper of the King's dogs. The King and the courtiers were amused by his jovially coarse nature; he was regarded more or less as the Court Fool. It is perhaps unlikely that Charles II should have chosen and knighted this fellow for the unsavoury role of providing one of the royal mistresses with a strictly titular husband. Merivel basks for a while in his new fortune, which includes an estate in Norfolk; but it dangerous to depend upon princes: they use you merely, and what they give, they can take away. As this part of the story progresses, Merival becomes a tragic figure.

Stripped of his estate in Norfolk and of almost all his possessions, Merivel seeks refuge with John Pearce, an austere Quaker, who had been a fellow medical student at Cambridge and who had ever since been his friend, a penetrating observer and mind-reader, and a stern but loving critic. The portrait drawn by Rose Tremain of this unusual man is one of the great accomplishments of her book. Pearce runs a hospital in the Fenland for the insane. Merivel takes his share in the work at the hospital, and slowly he becomes as dedicated to this work as were the good and well-meaning Quakers; and his nature changes. As a physician his task was to perform such bleedings as were believed at the time to bring about a cure for insanity. He thinks there must be better ways, and he is able to improve the lives of the inmates somewhat by putting some of his ideas into practice. He has become a better man, but after a time the old Adam reasserts himself, and he has to leave the hospital, bearing with him with him the means of atonement. It is the best, most moving and most powerful part of the story.

The blurb on the back of the book tells us that we are to expect redemption (or "restoration") to come in due course; but when Merivel thought that, after many travails, he had achieved it by settling down to a calm existence in London as a physician, his equanimity is again disturbed by catching sight of the King, and there is more internal and external turbulence to come before the resolution. I am not even sure whether that resolution is something that actually happened or whether it only a hallucination in Merivel's mind.

The portrait of Charles II is intriguing; but I find too much in the relationship between Merivrl and the King improbable: the tennis game between the two of them that immediately precedes Merivrl's disgrace; the fact that even after the King had treated him so badly, Merivel should always have thought of this selfish charmer as one of his two true loves - the other being Pearce; the King's final appearance four pages from the end of the book.

Even so, this is a very good read, inventive of incident, and richly conveying the flavour of the period: the clothes, the food, the medical science of the time, the robust sexuality, the poor law, the Plague and the Great Fire, the Quakers, the insane, the fear of witchcraft.
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on 11 April 2017
Robert Merivel is a young and foolish man of his time who grows before our eyes into a rounded and lovable human being.
At the end of the book he has become a close friend.
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on 7 May 2017
This is a wonderfully absorbing read about a man of Charles II's court who is both flawed and deeply likeable. The book successfully transported me to London just after the Restoration and was a deeply joyful read about a medicical man/a dandy/a sinner and a saint.
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on 19 March 2018
I felt time stop and chapters were full of sentences that dropped like jewels on the page. I was so involved with the characters, but it felt as though half way Tremain had put so much into the first half she was tiring. Characters were skipped over, the ending was implausible but maybe by then the knowledge of a series was on its way and the last chapters had to be changed...who knows!
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on 29 March 2016
I have read several of Rose Tremain's books before and thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. However, I found this book extremely boring. The main character was unappealing and I felt no empathy for him whatsoever. His fanciful imaginings and soul searching left me entirely unmoved. I am familiar with the period of history dealt with in this book and I learnt nothing new about it.
If this had not been the book of the month in my book club, I would not have finished it, but would have given up after the first hundred pages.
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