Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Merivel: A Man of His Time

Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain
(W.W. Norton & Co. and also AudioGO, 2013)
Format: Audio download via Audiobook Jukebox (narrated by Sean Barrett)

From Goodreads: "Get ready to laugh, prepare to weep -- Robert Merivel is back in Rose Tremain's magical sequel to "Restoration." 
Robert Merivel, courtier to Charles II is no longer a young man -- but off he goes to France in search of the Sun King and to Switzerland in pursuit of a handsome woman. Versailles -- all glitter in front and squalor behind -- is a fiasco: Merivel is forced to share an attic (and a chamber pot) with a Dutch clock-maker while attempting to sustain himself on peas and jam and water from the fountains. Switzerland, by contrast, is perhaps a little too comfortable. But the lady, a clever botanist, leads Merivel deliciously on -- until her jealous husband bursts in with duelling pistols. 
As he narrates the picaresque journey, Merivel gets into all sorts of scrapes; he is torn between enjoying himself and making something of his life, through medicine and the study of science. He tries to be diligent, but constantly backslides into laugher and laziness. A big-hearted rogue who loves his daughter, his country house and the English King... Merivel is Everyman -- and he speaks directly to us down the centuries."

It's been a loooong time since I read Tremain's Restoration, so I didn't really look at this as a follow-up. Instead, it was a charming and crafty story of Robert Merivel's machinations as he moves throughout his world. Once something of a clown to Charles II, he has matured into a reflective and somewhat self-indulgent man. But the humor is still there. Merivel is a joy of a character, full of regrets and plans and love and loyalty. Above all, he loves his daughter and his king, and is willing to sacrifice his dignity and his safety in service to them. He has his triumphs, as well as his tragedies, and the memory of some hard times to ground him throughout. I truly enjoyed spending time with him. Tremain is an eloquent scribe, and it's easy to get carried away in her descriptive passages, especially of Merivel's travels. I don't think I'd have been much of a journey-taker if I'd lived with Merivel's road conditions.

Barrett has a strong voice, and was so smooth with the various European accents involved with this narration. I would have wished for the pace to be a touch tighter, because Merivel was so playful at times but the narration was consistently steady and measured. Otherwise I was quite caught up in listening.

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