Gayla Bassham's Reviews > Restoration

Restoration by Rose Tremain
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's review
Jul 16, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011-reads
Read from July 16 to 21, 2011

I've read a couple of other novels by Rose Tremain, and I've always liked her work, but this was the first of her books to really wow me. I thought this book was amazing. It's told from the point of view of a foolish sycophant at the court of Charles II. But Robert Merivel transforms over the course of the book, and the transformation is thoroughly believable.

The writing in Restoration is quite different than Tremain's usual style; it's told in the first-person and the voice reminded me a bit of Sarah Waters's work (although the plot itself is nothing like anything Waters might write). The voice and period details felt very authentic to me. Most importantly, Merivel feels like a real person, and I never felt that Tremain was sneering at him. He does foolish things, but Tremain never loses sight of the human underneath, and that focus is what makes this book really work.

Tremain intended this book as a commentary on the excesses of the Eighties, and I think the parallels to consumer culture still work. But even if you ignore the commentary, Restoration works as a marvelous character study of a flawed, vapid, but ultimately redeemable man.

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