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3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  245 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
"St Paul's cathedral stands like a cornered beast on Ludgate hill, taking deep breaths above the smoke. The fire has made terrifying progress in the night and is closing in on the ancient monument from three directions. Built of massive stones, the cathedral is held to be invincible, but suddenly Pegge sees what the flames covet: the two hundred and fifty feet of scaffoldi ...more
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Doubleday Canada
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I, the Sun by Janet E. MorrisWolf Hall by Hilary MantelBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelConceit by Mary NovikMuse by Mary Novik
Best Biographical Fiction
4th out of 151 books — 43 voters
Forever Amber by Kathleen WinsorRestoration by Rose TremainFrenchman's Creek by Daphne du MaurierRoyal Charles by Antonia FraserThe Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys
Books Set in Restoration England
6th out of 74 books — 33 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 965)
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A. Fedosia
Aug 15, 2016 A. Fedosia rated it it was amazing
Updated review: Rereading this novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it, finding even more about the story. This time, I carefully attended to the background of politics and religion. William Bowles, Pegge's husband, the king's royal tailor, is concerned about their trajectory. His family's safety is of importance. He himself takes to the countryside, residing at his estate, Clewer. Besides writing over Donne's sermons and elegies, Pegge is a natural gardener. The wonderful descriptions include winter plu ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
17th-century England was no easy time for anyone, including Pegge, second-youngest daughter of the infamous poet and preacher John Donne. A strange girl with a slightly obsessive fascination for her father and a yearning for the kind of love he had with her mother, Ann, before her death several years before, Pegge has fixed her sights on Izaak Walton, a young fisherman the same age as her oldest sister Constance - whom Izaak loves despite Con's dismissive attitude and ambition.

From 1622 until af
I am so very happy that Mary was long-listed for the Giller, and that she won the Ethel Wilson for this book. Well-deserved!

I have not read many historical fiction novels, but this didn't really "read" like a typical historical fiction. I read it not only once, but twice -- before it really "came out", and afterwards.

The first time I read it more for the story (although I couldn't not notice the excellent prose), and I read quickly. (Yes, I found it was a page-turner.) The second time I read as
Aug 13, 2008 Sandra rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully-written historical novel, told mainly from the pov of John Donne's daughter. This is the type of historical fiction I delight in, with flawlessly crafted prose, delightful details, wit, and interesting family dynamics. I highly recommend it.
Mar 13, 2008 Allan rated it it was amazing
Awesome. If you love historical fiction--or just love a good read--this is for you.
Aug 09, 2009 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Loved this book. The main characters are so eccentric and passionate. The historical context is really informative and so well written. I loved how the author develops the intricacies of the relationship between John and his daughter Pegge, and how their relationship impacts on her relationship with her husband and life long love. The prose is wonderful - I had a hard time putting it down. Happy to read yet another smart, well writen book by a Canadian author.
Jun 07, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing
A great read. This is a book you tell your friends about and they tell their friends about.
Apr 06, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
Jun 02, 2010 Nafiza rated it really liked it
There is a certain eternalness about the characters who are carved so sharply, so beautifully from the words that flow together as poetry. This was a beautiful book - it is a classic. And I am entirely enamored by the world created by Novik. The story of Pegge, who might have been Cinderella in some other story, who dreams and wants as feverishly as her genius father. Her genius has no audience, and her desires are largely unspoken. However, at the end of it all, she finds fulfillment. And love.
Alan Bradley
Aug 01, 2011 Alan Bradley rated it it was amazing
Mary Novik breathes new life into the dust that lies beneath "Old St. Paul's".

Like Izaak Walton and Dr. Samuel Johnson before her, she explores the life - and death - of John Donne, that curious clergyman whose effigy still stands wrapped in his shroud, even though the church that once contained it was long ago made ashes.

Her book joins the ranks of those select few authors - Peter Ackroyd, for one - whose books convey an abiding love of London, and what lies beneath.
Ruth Seeley
Dec 22, 2010 Ruth Seeley rated it really liked it
What is it they say? Well-behaved women are rarely remembered? While Pegge Donne, John and Ann's daughter, is the main character of this wonderful novel, she is her parents' child both literally and figuratively. There are moments of hilarity here, as when Pegge's husband consoles himself that he's protected her from something she shouldn't see - when in fact Pegge is the one who's removed her father's skeleton from its perch among the ruins of St. Paul's after London's Great Fire, bone by bone. ...more
Jul 16, 2013 Mary added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-books
My novel Conceit, which is set in 17th-century London, is about the daughter of the English poet John Donne. There have been many reviews on Goodreads, and group discussions can be read at and For more information, please visit

Cheers, Mary Mary Novik
Lorina Stephens
Mar 21, 2009 Lorina Stephens rated it liked it
Mary Novik's 17th century novel, Conceit is a beautifully written story about the daughter of the famed poet, John Donne.

Almost tragic in her obsession with her parent's legendary love-affair, the protagonist, Pegge Donne, explores the depths of passion, betrayal, sexuality and her own attempt to navigate a confusing and perilous era in England, not only politically, but socially.

Novik's handling of the subject matter is with a cool authorial voice, almost clinical, a striking, sometimes distu
Diana Stevan
Dec 10, 2014 Diana Stevan rated it it was amazing
I was blown away by Mary Novik's prose. I'm not surprised that she won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was long listed for the Giller Prize. Conceit starts with London on fire in the 17th century, a time when John Donne's poetry is flourishing. Her details about his daughters, his wife, and his conceit are riveting. I can't believe the kind of research that Mary Novik must've been done to bring this time and story to life. Highly recommend this book. Not only a look back at a time when the wo ...more
K.P. Vorenberg
Aug 19, 2011 K.P. Vorenberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a captivating read. The author's historical research coupled with her amazing imagination made this reading experience a most special one.
Carrie Marcotte
Very interesting novel and a revealing portrait of London domestic and political life in the seventeenth century.
Toni Osborne
Writing the novel must have been a very challenging and rewarding process for Mary Novik. She has successfully presented a rich old fashion story, centered on the life of Pegge Donne, daughter of love poet John Donne. The principal players: John Donne, his wife Anne More and their daughter Pegge relate alternately their life experiences.

Opening with a spectacular scene in London during the fury of the Great fire, you are immediately plunged into the world of passion, but not ordinary passion, on
Andrea (Cozy Up With A Good Read)
This review and others can be found on Cozy Up With A Good Read

This book was on a list of recommended books from Random House of Canada and I will have to say that this is one of the books that took me the longest to get through, but it was really interesting. The book is long and very detailed but not in a way that distracts from the story. Every little thing adds to the story and I found that Mary Novik's writing made it easy to imagine the setting and the characters. She gives readers every l
Mary Soderstrom
May 14, 2013 Mary Soderstrom rated it it was amazing
Almost exactly six years ago, I was lucky enough to have Quill and Quire ask me to review Mary Novik's debut novel Conceit. I was blown away by it, as the following review which I've just rescued from my old files, attests. Now I hear that her novel about Francesco Petrach will be out in August, and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

In the meantime, here's my review of Conceit:

How to write a review in 350 words that does justice to Mary Novik’s extraordinary novel Conceit?

Nearly impossib
Aug 28, 2011 Dorothy rated it really liked it
I was drawn into this book immediately as the first chapter is set during the Great Fire of London in 1666. Mary Novik paints a clear picture of the panic and confusion and uses it to introduce her main character, Pegge Dunne as she struggles to rescue the statue of her father, the great John Donne, from St Paul's Cathedral as it burns to the ground.

While Pegge is the main character in the book, the story is is dominated by her flamboyant father who in his early life was a poet best known for hi
Sep 04, 2013 Graham added it
17th century social brutality, especially for women, but the men suffer losses too, sometimes stupidly. The novel makes me glad I came along later, but I was riveted to the "present" of the past. Vivid portrayals of historic ones like Jonne Donne, his daughter, his wife, Samuel Pepys- from inside their skulls. "Skull/s" is a key word in this book, but the book's beauty is in the (unexpected for me) passions of flowers, fish and fabric. Then the London fire of 1666 and its effect as a pair of boo ...more
Elizabeth Eames
Jun 04, 2013 Elizabeth Eames rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at my local library and was very pleasantly surprised by the story, the characters and the skill of the writing! I had to keep reading and was a bit disappointed when I hit the end. Fascinating characters, an intriguing bit of history with a perfect title.
Paulette Heppner
Feb 09, 2013 Paulette Heppner rated it really liked it
Portrait of John Donne through the eyes of his daughter, Pegge Donne. Interesting view of life in seventeenth-century London.
May 23, 2014 CynthiaA rated it really liked it
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Pegge Donne spends her whole life pursuing love. And as the daughter of esteemed poet-turned-priest, John Donne, she has formed strong opinions about what "love" is. For didn't john Donne forsake everything to marry his own true love, Ann More. Didn't he write her love poems that still today are revered and held as examples of great poetry. And when Ann More died after giving birth to her twelfth child, didn't John Donne inscrib
Aban (Aby)
Nov 11, 2015 Aban (Aby) rated it did not like it
I looked forward to reading 'Conceit' which was long listed for the Giller Prize, was a Quill & Quire 'Book of the Year', and the Globe and Mail 'Best Book'. I enjoy historical novels, and relished the prospect of delving into the 17th century world of the poet John Donne. However, I became quickly disenchanted. The novel is about Pegge, the daughter of John Donne, and about the love between her parents, John and Anne. None of the characters came alive for me, though I would have loved to ge ...more
Anne McDonald
Aug 31, 2011 Anne McDonald rated it it was amazing
The detail and lovely writing in this book are amazing. I am going to read John Donne's writings now that Mary Novik has intrigued me so much. And Izak Walton's too now. It was intense and I read it over my 2 wks camping at the lake - a fabulous place to read this senuous book!
Aug 25, 2011 Suze rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Now that I'm done, I'm going to check back on the discussion in Book Haven to see what everybody's saying about it.
Feb 21, 2011 Rai rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Very rarely have I endeavoured to finish a book this painful. The entire style was distracting. There was perhaps 75 pages towards the end that I actually didn't hate, but overall, not a book I enjoyed at all.
Nov 26, 2013 Liz rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read! great characters and a story that will keep you interested. Loved Pegge's character the most but William's was probably the most sympathetic.
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Hi Everybody,

My new novel Muse is set in 14th-century Avignon. Everyone on Goodreads has been so wonderfully supportive, I feel very blessed. I am especially happy to see that the group, The Imprinted Life, discussed Muse here

Muse is the first person story of Solange Le Blanc, who became entangled in a love triangle with Francesco Petrarch and Laura, and la
More about Mary Novik...

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“What do you most wish for, Izzy?"
"Herbs and salads, and fish straight from the river. A man needs no more than such pleasures.”
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