Monday, August 26, 2013

A Man of His Time

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 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.

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