Two Historical Fiction Sequels

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Merivel: A Man of His Time

Merivel by Rose Tremain

Five words from the blurb: physician, courtier, laughter, King, loyalty

Last year I read and enjoyed Restoration by Rose Tremain in which Robert Merivel found favour with King Charles II. Merivel is the sequel to this 1989 Booker shortlisted novel and it begins in 1683, towards the end of Charles’ reign. Merivel is just as entertaining as Restoration – so if you enjoyed the first book you’ll find the sequel equally satisfying.

The book begins with Merivel heading to Versailles to enjoy the courts of Louis XIV. It follows him to Switzerland and then back to England, covering similar themes to the first book.

The writing is vibrant and it is a wonderful insight into 17th century life!

Recommended to fans of Restoration.


Sarah Thornhill

Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville

Five words from the blurb: Australia, histories, relationship, love, stories

I loved The Secret River so was keen to read this sequel. Unfortunately it was written in a different style to the first book and I failed to engage with it.

Sarah Thornhill begins a generation after The Secret River and follows William Thornhill’s daughter, Sarah, as she grows up and falls in love with a mixed-race neighbour. Unfortunately their love affair was unconvincing and all the characters were two-dimensional.

The writing style was lighter and faster paced than that of The Secret River, but I felt it lacked the depth of the first book. I never cared about the characters and found myself losing interest in the plot. After a particularly unconvincing scene about half way through I abandoned it. I’ve heard similar complaints about The Lieutenant. Are any of Grenville’s other books as good as The Secret River?


The commenting problem on my blog has now been fixed, although all comments left in the last 24 hours have lost. :-( Sorry for all inconvenience caused.

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  1. Mystica says:

    The Rose Tremain book is the one book that caught my interest.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mystica, It is very entertaining. Enjoy!

  2. JoV says:

    sorry you didn’t like Sarah Thornhill Jackie. Perhaps the sparse and easy writing style was what made it good for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I often have a problem with sparse, but I don’t think that was the problem in this case. It was too fast paced for anything to feel significant. Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood as I was expecting something more meaningful, similar in style to The Secret River?

  3. David says:

    I’m so relieved that you didn’t finish ‘Sarah Thornhill’, Jackie – makes me feel better about giving up on it too. I’d been very keen to read it, but didn’t get past page 30 or so. Partly I felt like I needed to have a clearer memory of ‘The Secret River’ to appreciate it (I could have re-read it I suppose), but my main problem was the one you point out: the style is so light that those 30 pages flew by and felt almost trivial as a result. I certainly didn’t care what happened next and so moved on to something else. And yes, I’m one of those who felt similarly about ‘The Lieutenant’.
    My introduction to Grenville was ‘The Idea of Perfection’ and it is still my favourite of hers that I’ve read.

    You’re really selling me on the Rose Tremain. I bought ‘Restoration’ as a result of your review, though I haven’t yet read it. The only one of hers I’ve read is ‘The Colour’ and I found it painfully slow and rather dull, but I never give up on an author on the basis of just one book (I always tell myself: suppose someone’s first experience of Salman Rushdie were ‘Fury’!) so I will get around to it at some point.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, It is good to know I’m not alone with my thoughts on ‘Sarah Thornhill’ I think “trivial” is the perfect word to describe this book. I don’t think a greater knowledge of ‘The Secret River’ would help – more depth, character development and emotion would be far better! Thanks for letting me know that ‘The Idea of Perfection’ is good. I’ll add it to my wishlist.

      I’m afraid I haven’t read ‘The Colour’ so can’t compare it with the others, but I do know that Rose Tremain writes in very different styles. I enjoyed ‘The Road Home’ but didn’t like ‘Trespass’. ‘Restoration’ and ‘Merivel’ are very different in style to the other two (but very similar to each other) I’d love to know how you get on with them.

  4. kimbofo says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t like Sarah Thornhill. I really loved it when I read it last year. I found the “adoption” of the Maori girl profoundly moving, but perhaps you didn’t to that point in the book?

    1. Jackie says:

      Kim, Actually it was that scene that made me give up! It is unusual for us to have such differing opinions on a book. I wonder what caused our tastes to diverge on this occasion?

  5. Just finished my review of The Idea of Perfection. It was an enjoyable enough book but I found it slow and hard to get into. It sounds like I may not enjoy Sarah Thornhill as my problems with I of P were similar to yours, namely not engaging with the characters and a slow pace. I’ve got The Secret River somewhere, which I’ll get round to one day no doubt.

    1. Jackie says:

      Liz, It sounds as though ‘The Idea of Perfection’ might be more similar to The Secret River in style. Sarah Thornhill wasn’t slow – my problem was that it was too fast and lacked depth. Shame you didn’t connect to the characters – I’ll check out the rest of your review now.

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