Sarah Kennedy's Reviews > Merivel: A Man of His Time

Merivel by Rose Tremain
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This sequel to Tremain's seventeenth-century novel Restoration continues the story of Robert Merivel, now older (though little wiser). He is now the father of a grown daughter and he continues his quest to serve Charles II.

Like Restoration, Merivel is an episodic book. Merivel goes to France, Merivel comes back to England. Merivel travels to London and sees the king, Merivel returns to his estate in Norfolk. There's not much of a through-line plot-wise, as there is not in Restoration, and the book's center is the character of the man himself. His saintly friend Pearce is now dead, but he still appears (one wonders whether Tremain regretted killing him off in the first book) as a ghost of Merivel's mind, who comes now and then to upbraid his friend for his continuing greed and lust.

This book seems determined to provide as detailed and truly sordid descriptions of bad human behavior as possible, and some of these scenes feel rather gratuitous. Merivel is clearly a man who gives in to his worst impulses (usually sexual impulses) almost all of the time, and the book dwells on these failures rather more than completely necessary to character-building. In doing so, it does lose some of the satiric sting of Restoration, simply because much of this territory has already been covered, and it's difficult to see how this sequel furthers the cause of the satire.

That said, the writing, as is almost always the case with Tremain, sparkles with wit and insight, and presents the most hideous scenes with unexpected humor. Tremain is a true master of tone, if one doesn't object to making fun of really appalling behavior and situations.

The ending is fairly predictable, but it's welcome in that it probably means that the story of this seventeenth-century Englishman has come to its expected end. see more at https://sarahkennedybooks.com
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Reading Progress

July 17, 2019 – Started Reading
July 22, 2019 – Finished Reading
July 26, 2019 – Shelved

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