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Merivel: A Man of His Time Hardcover – April 15, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393079570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393079579
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this wonderful sequel to Restoration (1990), set 16 years later, Tremain’s lovingly flawed protagonist, Sir Robert Merivel, pens a second riveting memoir. He aspires to leave nothing out, and readers will be the grateful beneficiaries of his witty, observant reflections and self-deprecating honesty. By 1683, Merivel has ripened into late middle age, but neither his love for his beautiful daughter, Margaret, nor his comfortable existence at Norfolk’s Bidnold Manor relieves his melancholy. Wanting to be “dazzled by Wonders,” he travels to Versailles, hoping to become a court physician, but is let down by its glittering emptiness and his own sartorial foibles. His affair with an unhappily married Swiss noblewoman brings him happiness but comes with unexpected burdens. Whether facing the illnesses of those closest to him, acting upon his lustful impulses, or pondering his responsibilities to his servants and king, Merivel finds that the compassionate and selfish aspects of his character are inextricably tangled. In a tone moving from contemplative and sad to uproariously funny and back again, Tremain masterfully captures the voice of a man searching for a satisfying and meaningful life as Charles II’s once-glorious reign winds down. It’s an absolute pleasure to spend time in Merivel’s company. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publisher plans to trade on the popularity of the previous Merivel novel, and librarians can imagine the excitement this new one will create among serious historical-fiction readers. --Sarah Johnson


“Tremain’s control of her character and her reflective but often dramatic unfolding of events are impressive acts of authorial ventriloquism, in which she gives a nod to the great diarists of that era but carries off her own man’s story with wit, grace and originality. . . . She not only effortlessly sustains momentum and mood, but brings the novel to as near a perfect ending as one could wish.” (Rosemary Goring - The Herald)

“When he appeared in 1989, Merivel was truly the man of the Thatcherite moment, an individualistic, hedonistic creature who held up a mirror to his audience. So does he still have something to say to us in 2012? Resoundingly, yes.” (Daisy Hay - The Observer)

“Robert Merivel is one of the great imaginative creations in English literature of the past 50 years. [Merivel is] as rich and as dazzling as its predecessor—steeped in wise and witty reflection on the great Mysteries of Life, and the timeless, futile Hopes and Follies.” (Mick Brown - The Daily Telegraph)

“What ultimately makes the book such a joy is simply being in Merivel’s company. His narration is by turns rueful, comic, despairing and joyful; but it’s always bursting with life, always good-hearted—and always entirely loveable.” (James Walton - The Daily Mail)

“Richly marbled with intelligence, compassion and compelling characters, leavened with flourishes of lyricism and and attractive tolerance towards human frailties.” (Angus Clarke - The Times)

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Customer Reviews

Some say you don't need to have read 'Restoration' to enjoy this novel; I disagree.
She has that unique ability to create wonderful characters, narratives with heart and an amazing eye for historical detail.
michele taylor
I would recommended this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a good laugh.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ripple on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Rose Tremain has made fans of her 1989 book "Restoration" wait for a long time before picking up the story of Sir Robert Merivel. Almost as much time has passed in Merivel's world with the book opening in 1683. Leaving a follow up so long can be fraught with danger. For those, like me, who loved "Restoration" at the time, the memory of its central character has grown in fondness over time while some of the detail has been inevitably lost to memory. Thankfully, this is one of those rare things in literature; a very good follow up.

The ideal preparation for this book is probably that you have read "Restoration" but forgotten some of the detail, as Tremain recaps events and Merivel's narration refers to events of the past and to his writing of the first book. This means that you don't strictly have to have read "Restoration" first, and it reveals some light spoilers to the plot if you read them out of order. Although while plot development is part of the joy of the books, the main joy is the characterization of Merivel himself.

Merivel, to the uninitiated, is a physician and courtier to King Charles II. A Falstaff-type character, he is self-depreciating and has an uncanny ability to attract and usually overcome disaster. His behaviour is often selfish and disreputable, but he has a warm heart beneath his rolls of corpulence and he's hard not to love.

What "Merivel" lacks in comparison with "Restoration" is the mirroring of personal events with political times, when Merivel's fortunes and favour with Charles are restored in just the same way as the King is restored to the throne of England. Instead we get the end of the King's reign and Merivel at a loss to find his purpose in live.
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Format: Hardcover
It is 1683, fifteen years after physician and courtier Merivel's years of revelry with Restoration King Charles II. Time moves on, Merivel caught up in memories of his vigorous pursuit of pleasure in romantic escapades, now at his country estate, Bidnold, considering the future. His beloved daughter, Margaret, about to embark to Cornwall with family friends, Merivel ponders a new direction to fill the empty days ahead. To that end, he sails to France, to present himself at the court of Louis XIV, letter of introduction in hand from Charles II. Unprepared for the crowds of supplicants thronging the French court, Merivel finds himself sharing a dank corner of the castle with another who would gain the king's notice, sharing meager provisions and sleeping rough while waiting for an audience.

What comes next might not surprise fans of Tremain's novel, Restoration, which describes the youthful arrogance of Merivel's adventures with his king. Lacking that context to ground the protagonist's character, a different Merivel evolves, a man on the downside of his journey. Unsurprisingly, he reverts to the balm of old behavior, namely, a woman. Louise de Flamanville is married to Swiss guardsman Col. Jacques de Flamanville, who prefers other men in his bedroom, leaving Louise free to offer her hospitality to Merivel. The pair eventually discovered by the outraged husband, a humiliated Merivel returns to England, albeit with plans to reunite with his lady love later. Fate, the great tormentor of a lascivious man inspired by the promise of amour, has other plans. Back at Bidnold, Merivel is greeted by tragic circumstances, conditions forcing him to consider his waning years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By shelfishness on May 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain is an unexpectedly rich novel the follows Robert Merivel, a doctor living in England in the late 1600s. He has reached a point in his life when he has begun to examine his priorities and fears that he will grow obsolete in a world in which his only daughter is growing and he is growing old. Determined to find renewed purpose in his life, Merivel sets out to visit King Charles II with whom he has a comfortable relationship. The king agrees to write a letter regarding Merivel's character so that the doctor can find a position on the staff of the doctors of Versailles. Traveling to France, however, Merivel has no idea what to expect. He finds the French fashions to be puzzling and the customs to be excessive, yet persists in his efforts to find favor with the king. While walking around the palace, Merivel is surprised to be approached by a beautiful woman, Louise, who offers to help Merivel find a tailor. Little does Merivel suspect that this interaction will change his life. Quickly, however, Merivel is on his way back home and realizes that the adventures in France did little to prepare him for all that is to follow.
Although this book could easily have become dull and dry, Tremain gives Merivel wonderful voice that make him an engaging and relatable character. It is easy to see how much the fear of aging has impacted the doctor and his concerns are incredibly real and contemporary despite the centuries that have passed. Merivel is a man of our time because his nature and curiosity make him timeless and ageless - he deals with all of the concerns that we face at one time or another (plus some incredibly bizarre challenges).
I really liked this book overall, but the one thing that I struggled with was the suddenness of his relationship with Louise - that was the one element of the book that seemed unrealistic in an otherwise thoroughly detailed novel.
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