1980s Historical Fiction

Restoration by Rose Tremain

Restoration (Sceptre 21's) Shortlisted for 1989 Booker Prize

Five words from the blurb: King Charles II, Court, love, mistresses, grace

Restoration is a special piece of historical fiction that manages to be entertaining whilst retaining plenty of period atmosphere. Set in 17th century England, the book follows Robert Merivel, a medical student, who finds himself inside the court of King Charles II. Merivel is desperate to find favour with the King and agrees to his demands, no matter how extreme they seem. This book is slow, but engaging and unlike a lot of historical fiction it does not focus on war or tragedy.

The book is written in a distinctive style, but is never difficult to understand. The tone remains light throughout and I frequently found myself smiling at the joyful enthusiasm of it all.

I shall not dwell upon the details of our journey, except to record that, as we came to Mile End and Will saw in the distance the tower and turrets of London, he grew most childishly excited thinking of the marvels he was about to witness for the first time, he having passed all thirty-nine years of his life in Norfolk.

The subject matter occasionally gets a little darker, but despite the appearance of the plague and the fire of London, the tone never becomes overbearing and quickly returns to its entertaining style.

There are a few brief descriptions of homes and personal belongings, but the book concentrates on Merivel’s relationships – showing the importance of loyalty and trust in the 17th century.

My only problem with the book was that the plot was slow and meandering. I was engaged throughout, but I prefer my books to have a little more pace and forward momentum.

Merivel is a fantastic character. I didn’t always like him, or agree with his choices, but I loved following his journey through life. The sequel, Merivel, is published in September and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens to him next.


Have you read Restoration?

Are you looking forward to reading the sequel?



17 replies on “Restoration by Rose Tremain”

Sandy, I’ve been through a few historical fiction phases in my life and enjoy reading them from time to time. If you’re new to the genre this is a good place to start.

I love Rose Tremain “The Road Home” and ever since Restoration has been packaged into Vintage classics exclusively for Waterstone’s cloth cover edition, I have been contemplating to read this. I remember how I enjoyed reading The Road Home and can understand when you say she writes in an easy way. Clean and clear prose, I remember. Thanks for the review.

p/s: I just think how we could watch the Olympics and still read and blog about a book, is amazing!

Jo, I thought The Road Home was fantastic too. Restoration is very different in terms of style, but I enjoyed it just as much. I think you’d like it too.

PS. The Olympics is reducing the amount of time I spend reading/blogging – I can see August being my slowest reading month for a long time.

JoAnn, I wasn’t a big fan of Trespass – it didn’t engage me in the same way as her other books. I’m not sure what that says about your chances of enjoying her other books, but I look forward to finding out what you make of them.

Hi Yes I read this years ago and adored it – its on my list of all time favourites (quite a long list!). I’m looking forward to a reread before the new book

nomadreader, I wasn’t a fan of Trespass, but the diversity of her writing styles show her skill as a writer. I hope you enjoy more of her books.

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