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The Royal Physician's Visit

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,667 ratings  ·  247 reviews
Winner of top literary prizes in Sweden and France, Enquist's epic of power, love, and madness in 1760s Denmark is an extraordinarily elegant and gorgeous novel.
Paperback, 412 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Washington Square Press (first published 1999)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,667 ratings  ·  247 reviews

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Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
4.5 Stars.

I love books that bring history to life and what an utterly fascinating and compelling read based on historical fact The Royal Phsician's Visit was. It tells the story of King Christian VII of Denmark, his young Queen Caroline Mathilda of England and his Physician Johann Friedrich Struensee and the Royal Affair that that rocked the Danish Court and brought the kingdom to the brink of revolution

In 1768, a magnetic and handsome German Physician by the name of Struensee became the physic
Like Nostromo this historical novel opens with its ending. We experience the story within a frame, knowing the unhappy fate of the hero and heroine even before we have been introduced to them. What ever may happen within the novel we know that any happiness can only be fleeting, the framing device has already told us that this story will be tragic.

The Royal Physician's Visit, was written in Swedish, translated into many languages, but is set in late eighteenth century Denmark. The background is

On completion: WOW - what a way to learn history! This reads like a horror story or a political crime novel. But NO!, this is history. I applaud Per Olov Enquist's talents. He presents all the facts, all the events of the "Danish Struensee Era", and yet not once do you feel you are reading anything but a political crime novel. And yet.... I don't enjoy political novels or crime novels or horror stories, either - but this I adored!

The imagery is stupendous:

The revolution that Struensee
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura
Full-time: this is very much the News of the World/Sunday Sport way of recounting history; it could have been thumped together by a conglomerate of Hugh Hefner/a road drill/Samuel Beckett and David Bowker. How I wish this period could be given the Antonia Fraser touch.

Anyway, I finished and went on to research so it deserves a 2* for that alone.


Halfway point - The writing is clumsy, flair-less and bordering on the inept; the characters are made modern and there are repeat paragrap
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Absolutely brilliant, this one was such a page-turner! I need to read all the books on Danish history now, please and thank you.
Toria Burrell-Hrencecin
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What sets this book apart from most literature I've read (recently) is the unique, poetic writing style. Enquist tells a very gripping story, but crafts it in a very elegant, almost musical way. He repeats certain key phrases over and over, (sometimes varying them slightly), which creates an almost hypnotic rhythm to the prose. It is almost like a musical symphony, where certain motifs are repeated or varied to create emphasis. Some of his descriptions are full of long, almost stream-of-consciou ...more
Christine Spoors
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
I really enjoyed this book, which was translated from Swedish to English by Tiina Nunnally. I must admit that I bought this book because I love the Danish film A Royal Affair which follows the same period in history and the romance between Struensee and Queen Caroline Mathilde. The fact that I was imagining the characters as actors I love (Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander) definitely played a part in how much I enjoyed the book.

This book was written in a really interesting way. I'm not sure ho
This is a richly atmospheric work of historical fiction, filled with political intrigue, historical personages and events, shadowed by darkness and a visible sorrow clear in every one of its pages. It is as if the individual psyche of each of the protagonists were driving the book, giving it texture, complexions, and glimpses into the mind of those involved in this high drama. It is an angst-filled, almost surreal, display of lives were to come together and leave a mark on the world, making for ...more
Read this if you like: historical fiction, madness, enlightenment, court drama and intrigue, "God's chosen ones", Danish Royal Family, struggles for power, political power vacuums

This book has one of the most beautifully sensual passage I've ever read. I don't think I've read history presented like this one and I like it; I like how it's written. My love for scheming royals only intensified after reading this book.

"I'm thinking," he said, "that before, I thought I was in control. Now I no lo
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sera by: Emory/Bookish
I had never heard of this book before (thank you Bookish!), and after briefly reading the description, I thought that it would be something that was aligned with my interests. Boy, was I right, and what a tremendous find!

The book is based upon the rule of Christian VII in Denmark and how the people around him used him to further their own political agendas. The author also did a great job of depicting the mood of what is known as the period of Enlightenment and how Denmark ended up becoming a hu
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is a Swedish book about Danish history, translated into English. It's based on a true story -- a really really interesting true story. Which is why it's such a shame that it's such a bizarre snooze of a book.

I'm not sure if the problem is the book itself (in any language), if it's because it's a translation, or if there are ways of writing in Swedish literature that simply don't match up with traditional English speaking literature. But the use of words is bizarre and gives you the feeling
Sep 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Although the topic was interesting and I enjoyed the historical nuggets into the unfamiliar story of the Danish Royal house the writing style of Per Olov Enquist just did not speak to me. I suppose my taste is for a much more straight forward and much less flowery, poetic type book. There were often passages where text was repeated and just restated in a different manner, which frustrated me to no end. By the time I reached the final 80 pages I was ready to throw in the towel due to sheer frustr ...more
I will be getting a more detailed review out here at some point, but for now let me say this: Per Olov Enquist is without a doubt one of the most unique crafters of the art of writing I've read. His book, "Lewi's Journey," sat across the room from me for well over two years before curiosity finally, finally got the better of me. Two wasted years. Within weeks I had ordered hard copies of this book and "The Story of Blanche and Marie." This act, in and of itself is telling, considering that I'm c ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best historical novels I've read in a long time. The writing is elegant and catchy, in that you feel the novelist is speaking directly to you (rather to the forces of history). The characters are brilliantly drawn, and unforgettable. The author puts us inside their minds, helping to provide rationale for their actions. And the story itself is amazing, especially given that it's true.

I had no idea that Denmark was ruled by a mad king in the 1770's, and that his physician enacte
Laurie Johnston
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
There’s no doubt. Christian VII, Denmark’s King, will go through history as some kind of mad.

He threw temper tantrums, chairs out of windows . . . literally believed the world was a stage . . . Sources claim he was schizophrenic. Historians also speculate—like his cousin, England’s George III—his symptoms stemmed from porphyria. No wonder then, his appointed bride, Caroline Mathilde, George’s sister, en route from a madhouse straight to another, reportedly cried the entire time.

No wonder, too, s
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
A great read! This book chronicles a compelling period in Danish history (a few decades before the French revolution and the dawn of the Enlightenment) with King Christian VII taking the throne. Enquist specifically focuses on the four brief years in which his Majesty’s chief royal physician, the German Johann Friedrich Struensee, gained the King’s confidence, and essentially became the holder of absolute power in Denmark.
However, Struensee’s rise to power enraged many in the nobility who plotte
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven’t been reading much in the past month-plus, and I have been reviewing books even less. However, I am a sucker for meaningless accolades such as the little red “COMPLETED” ribbon across my Goodreads yearly reading challenge graphic. So here we go--an attempt to pull together my thoughts about books I read months ago! Wheeee!

It's not often I learn something so completely new when I crack open a novel. However, with my prior acquaintance with Danish monarchs at zero, this book couldn’t help
Sue Corbett
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
An extremely difficult book to get into. I was ready to give up several times but persevered and am fairly glad I did. I did find the style difficult - I almost always struggle with Scandinavian authors - or their translators. This one had a lot of repetition, especially at the beginning, and I often had to reread passages to make sense of it. I discovered it was based on a true story which made it easier to follow and accept what was happening rather than wondering why the characters acted as t ...more
“His majesty acted as if he were cringing ingratiatingly, almost cowering. The members of the court showed no deference toward the monarch, but instead ignored him or retreated with a laugh whenever he approached, as if they wished to avoid his embarrassing presence.”

The Royal Physician’s Visit was my Denmark selection for the 52 Books Around the World Challenge. Set in the latter half of the 1700′s, this work of historical fiction depicts a power struggle within a tenuous monarchy. The King i
4.5 stars

I'd had this lying around for many a year until I finally decided to tackle it. I didn't think much of it; the description sounded only vaguely interesting, the cover and title didn't do much for me either.

Little did I know I'd find something so utterly captivating and postmodern here. I should have reviewed it earlier than two weeks after I've finished it so that I could have recounted what makes it so postmodern (aside from the disjointed narrative); alas, I think I shall have to read
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fully-reviewed
Nice bit of historical truth tangled up with poetic license. You feel the period, you feel the people and it all rings true while retaining the flow and feel of fiction.

Perfectly fine way of being entertained and feeling like you've learned just a little along the way.
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit difficult to get into, but an interesting read.
Does make me sympathetic to Diderot who said “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”.
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiktion
A million times better than Dario Fo's take on the same story in 'Der er en skør konge i Danmark'
Bish Denham
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd give this 4 1/2 stars if I could. The only reason for not giving it 5 is that the repetitious style of writing was, at times, a bit much. But, despite that, that very repetitiousness fit the story.

I know next to nothing about Danish history except how it relates to the U.S. Virgin Islands (where I grew up) which were owned by Denmark before they were bought by the U.S. in 1917. The Royal Physician's Visit is a rather strange and harrowing tale of a few brief years when the German, Doctor St
Julie Van Rijsewijk
If you like endless repetition, unsubtle analogies and metaphors, and unnatural conversation, this is the book for you. I like the least how the author doesn't trust you to be able to draw your own conclusions. No, everything is explained to you, and in case you didn't catch it the first time, he mentions it a few more times. Things are set in motion slowly, character development is slow or non-existent. You'd think the queen's perspective would be interesting, but she is almost only mentioned i ...more
Randi Samuelson-Brown
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
This is a fine book of a little/unknown period for most North Americans. I can see what both the positive and negative reviews are getting at...this is a hard book to rate! It can be very repetitive at time (I mean, the readers "get it" the first time or two around). I hated the literary device the author repeatedly used "And this is what happened."

I wonder if Enquist is seen as such a literary genius that the editors let him let him get away with, what is frankly, poor writing at times. That sa
K Are N
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
If history was taught a bit more like historical fiction in schools, we’d all know a lot more about the past.
I knew nothing about the book or this part of Danish history, or really any Danish history, before reading this book. As any good historical fiction, this has left me intrigued and keen to know more about what is actually know about these persons. And as any good book, this has stayed with me whenever I put it down and in the hours since I finished it.
The events narrated in the book lea
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This account of the Struensee period of Danish history manages to recreate this brief and fatal flirtation with Enlightenment politics in a way that is both dreamlike and highly informative. It is a seamless blending of historical chronicle and stream-of-consciousness narrative. The ending was never in doubt, so it is not suspense that drives the book. The author underscores Struensee's fate at the start of the book for those not so conversant in Danish history. This frees him to delve into the ...more
Historical novel set in 18th-century Denmark, which centres on a short-lived, Enlightenment-inspired 'revolution' in government (state-supported welfare, emancipation of the peasantry, etc.). The reign of Christian VII, a young monarch whose mental ill-health has been made significantly worse by intense physical and verbal abuse during his upbringing, offers an opportunity for both reformers (represented by Struensee, the physician of the title, and the young English queen Caroline Mathilde) and ...more
Ewa Gajer
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, world-lit
The book offers a fascinating insight into a period of Danish history when a German doctor Johann Friedrich Struense attempted to reform the Danish society. It is very well researched and reads like a real life Hamlet. I liked the factual aspect of it much more than the prose itself, which is a bit stilted. I suspect this is due to its translation. The language alternates between laconic and repetitious, and there are punctuation problems creating some awkwardness and confusion. Still, the story ...more
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Per Olov Enquist, better known as P. O. Enquist is one of Sweden's internationally best known authors. He has worked as a journalist, playwright, and novelist. In the nineties, he gained international recognition with his novel The Visit of The Royal Physician.

After a degree in History of literature at Uppsala University he worked as a newspaper columnist and TV debate moderator from 1965 to 1976.
“Is it the darkness that is light, or the luminous that is dark? A choice must be made. The same is true of history; people choose what to see, what is light and what is darkness.” 6 likes
“Människan var inte en maskin, men befann sig inne i maskinen. Det var det som var konsten. Att bemästra maskinen. Då skulle ansikten han tecknade le tacksamt och välvilligt mot honom. Men det svåra, det riktigt svåra var att de inte tycktes tacksamma. Att människornas små elaka huvuden mellan punkterna, de som avbockats! blivit klara! lösta!!!, att dessa ansikten som tittade fram var ondskefulla och illvilliga och otacksamma. Framför allt var de inte hans vänner. Samhället var en maskin, och ansiktena illvilliga. Nej, ingen klarhet längre.” 0 likes
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