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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2009
Antonia Fraser clearly had a passion for this project, and it shows from the opening of the book right the way through the narrative. My only criticism is she uses tons of foreshadowing which gets rather irritating after a while, and the convoluted family tree can be a bit trying to have to deal with all the time.

It could also do with an update using some newer sources, since it was published originally back in the early 1990s. Still, an impressive achievement and one that does not dismiss him as the 'merry monarch' he has often been depicted as. He was a brave survivor in a most tumultous age, and as she says, achieved things that James I and Charles I, this grandfather and father, scarcely ever dreamed of.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2007
This is what popular historical writing is all about - a readable, knowledgeable, enjoyable book. Fraser provides a superb introduction to the varied life and dramatic times of king Charles II. Her background information is clear and reliably accurate, she provides a great deal of insight into the person of this most personable of kings, and her bibliography is a launching place for further explorations. One could only wish to be able to submit a list of suggestions for new books...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2012
This is a terrific biography about the person at the heart of the Restoration, Charles II. The only problem I had was the first chapter which is loaded with foreshadowing (as another reviewer notes). This threw me off a bit about what the rest of the book might be like. However, after that chapter the book is beautifully written. Charles's childhood in the court of his father is well-done but one of the real highlights of this book is the detail Fraser supplies of Charles's struggle to get safely out of the country after the Battle of Worcester. This section is, as they say about mysteries, a real page-turner. Fraser brings out parts of the character of Charles which are often glossed over in the popular image of him. There is no question that after the Restoration Charles did not like hard work and really liked the ladies. The book has plenty of details about the many mistresses. (Nell Gwynn's line when the angry mob thought Charles's Catholic mistress was in the carriage is still a classic - "Good people, this is the Protestant whore!") But Fraser puts all this into the context of the overall character of this king. Charles was also witty, insightful and deeply caring of his people. But, like his father, he could not deal with Parliament and often let his advisors and his own tendency to take the easy way out get him into trouble. I found the contrast between the genuine courage of the young Charles and the indolence of the later Charles particularly interesting. He was at his finest when he was most physically challenged but slipped into the easy hedonistic life at court when he was not.

This is a long book but a reader cannot find a more richly detailed and well-written biography of this man. The reader learns not just about Charles himself but about the rather amazing times, the huge political swings, that occurred during Charles's life. The religious struggles, Charles's tenacious loyalty to his brother James, his touching and honest relationship with his little sister Henriette-Anne ("Madame") - all are in here. The book enlightens the reader enormously about this entire period of English history. Charles was much more complex than the stereotype of him and Fraser deserves great credit for bringing him to life. An excellent biography.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2009
Fraser's 30 year old biography is comprehensive in its survey (over 600 pages before you get to the notes) of the restored Charles II. As such it provides a useful continuation to any study of the English Civil War and its postwar political development - or so I thought. Fraser's account makes it clear that in many ways despite being having a safer pair of political hands then his father and being constantly aware of the consequences of a rift with his subjects, politically Charles II was but a more worldy-wise and pragmatic version of his father. The father's problems are not eradicated by the son, or by the 20 years of conflict that preceeded the 1660 restoration. Charles II has problems with Parliament - the issues of conflict are similar to those of Charles I; he is perhaps most steady once he rules without Parliament at the end of his reign. Again this was possible only due to financial security and has elements of similarity with Charles I's period of Personal Rule. War would have meant recalling Parliament and a return to conflict - again as with Charles I. This insight in itself makes the read worthwhile. Equally useful is the light the work casts on the relationship of Charles II with his brother and heir, James II.

As for the biography, the narrative is best when telling of Charles II's early life and exile as well as his dealings with his womenfolk (clearly considerate). Once in power, the book becomes a less satisfying read. Chronology is the basis of its framework. At times a more thematic structure (or substructure) would make for a clearer read. It is perhaps a book better used for its index rather than as a cover to cover read. I missed the flowing, more integrated writing of Fraser's more recent work.
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on December 2, 2012
This book goes into great detail regarding King Charles II's life and times. It tells about his whole life and the people and politics of the time. It was a very absorbing chronicle of his life. People who are interested in King Charles II should also read Antonia Fraser's book Charles II: His Life and Times. You should read the book King Charles II first though so you can better appreciate the second book.
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on June 5, 2015
i'm fascinated by the English Civil War, the Charles' (father and son), as well as James, etc. this is a great book, of course, because Antonia Fraser wrote it.
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on August 12, 2014
Fascinating reading about a great king. The political intrigues are a bit much for a nonhistorian, but I just skip them and carry on reading.
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on February 20, 2015
a compelling study of a complicated, interesting man
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on July 13, 2014
Book was exactly as promised.
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on November 13, 2014
superb!! well reasearched.
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