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5. 3. 2010

Rose Tremain - Restoration (Navrácená milost)


 I was first introduced to Rose Tremain in the last year's Language through Literature class. I chose her Music & Silence as a book to review then, and I remember our teacher being surprised it wasn't Restoration. I loved Music & Silence (and I got an A :)), so I was glad to see Restoration on the 1989 books list. I can say now that my instinct was right the first time to pick Music & Silence over Restoration. The 380 pages were about twice as much than I would consider completely satisfying. That is not to say this book is bad - only I didn't like it.

      It's usually a good thing when a book is convincing but not this time. I didn't like Restoration mostly because I couldn't bring myself to like any of the characters. Not even understand and accept their motives, or at least pity them... and Rose Tremain did a good job making those characters so convincing.

      It's a story set in the 17th century England, during the reign of Charles II.
      The main character (and narrator) is Robert Merivel, an ugly (he says so himself, don't blame me), sensual selfish glutton.
      Then we've got his friend - an ascetic, scrawny, goody quaker John Pearce, whose most precious possession is a spoon, which he carries around all his life. (Somebody should have told him it's a towel you're supposed to have, not cutlery.)
      There's also Merivel's wife - a young, beautiful girl who would do pretty much anything to be with the king. Readers are probably expected to sympathize with Célie, but I thought she was really dumb. One of the king's lovers and she thinks she'd change him and get him to marry her. You're about a century too late for that, lass.
      Who else? Not many. Finn is a painter who throughout the novel strives to get to the court and is willing to bribe, lie, peach, whatever, to achieve his goal.
      Aaaand, we're getting there.... the King himself. His main diversion seems to consist in uttering cryptic statements that are supposed to enlighten the lower.

      Robert Merivel is a student of medicine, but he deliberately forgets everything he's learned when the king makes him his personal vet. Instead he gradually becomes the court's clown and for some reason he believes that the king really loves him because he pulls him by his ugly nose. Makes perfect sense. So he gladly obeys when he's requested to marry one of the king's lovers (that would be Célie) - to avoid jealousy of another lover. As a thank you he gets a manor house in Norfolk. And only after a year or so in Norfolk it occurs to him that it isn't exactly a sign of love to leave one forgotten in the country. So he spends his time moping around and trying (in vain) to learn to paint and to play the oboe. That's where Finn comes in - teaching Merivel to paint, he hopes to get some help in accessing the court.
      After a while, Célie joins him at the manor. I've already explained what her problem was - and she was sent there to come to her senses and content herself with what she's got.
      Long story short: Célie sings so beautifully that even crude Merivel falls in love with her and does the forbidden thing -  tries to kiss her. Célie is disgusted, Finn tells the king, Célie returns to London, Merivel is banished from his manor. King speaks his cryptic truths: Don't sleep, Merivel. Um, okay.
      So what Merivel does? (He still loves the king, mind you, and tries to do what he's told) He joins friend Pearce in a small quaker mental hospital (really meaning 3 barns). But he has to leave again because he's got one of the crazy girls pregnant. (Oh, and Pearce dies.)
      So then he lives with his new girlfriends at her mother's. Finn is there as well - the king didn't like his painting and locked him up for two years, so that redeems him in Merivel's book. Merivel finally returns to medicine and works as a doctor. (Oh, and his girlfriend dies. Giving birth to a baby girl.)
     And we're almost done. The king is finally pleased with Merivel (he's not sleeping - he works and he saved a woman from a fire, Yippee.) and awards him with a room (like, literally. one room.) in the manor in Norfolk. So that's a happy end. Merivel has a kid and a room, king likes Merivel, Finn and Merivel's dead girlfriend's mother hook up.

     Like I said, it's a perfectly believable story, well depicted setting and all. I just guess we've met each other at the wrong time, me and Restoration.

3 komentáře:

  1. Your review is so hilarious it would almost make me read the book. Just almost...

  2. Sounds like it was not a good match, but maybe not a total loss, either. Interesting how an author can write books that create such different reactions.

  3. Definitely not a total loss. I still think Rose Tremain is a great writer!