The premise of Mount's novel is that "Jem" Mount was more than just a drinking buddy of Pepys's; indeed, he was something of a rival--albeit an unsuccessful one--in love, in politics, and ultimately in literature. The fictional diary begins with its narrator's childhood in Kent, and follows his progress: at 17 he's apprenticed to his uncle in Dover, and by 21 he's joined the civil service in Oliver Cromwell's new republic. Needless to say, Jem (who has already learned the fine art of cooking the books while working for his uncle) finds London a far more lucrative place to apply his skills, and at first he does well. It is during these heady, early days that Jem meets Sam Pepys, "a little man with eyes like children's marbles knocking together and a nose like a quill which he dipped into mine host's ink with a quick sucking motion as though he wished to empty the tavern before he was emptied out of it. He was all motion like a turbulent sea, yet neat." The two become friends, but when Cromwell dies and the monarchy is restored, Jem jumps from government employ into the service of a war hero whom he is secretly cuckolding, while Pepys stays in the civil service. It isn't long before Jem realizes his mistake, as he is gradually transformed into a glorified nanny, major domo, and occasional paramour while his friend rises spectacularly through the government ranks. Soon Jem is coveting everything Pepys has and doing his best (which of course, isn't enough) to get it all for himself.
Ferdinand Mount has crafted this picaresque tale with wit, intelligence, and a thorough knowledge of the times and the vocabulary with which to describe it. History real and imagined are seamlessly interwoven in a style Pepys himself would have been glad to own. By the end you'll find it difficult to believe the real Jeremiah Mount didn't write this diary; at the same time, you'll probably never look at Samuel Pepys's own effort in quite the same way again. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.