By Rose Tremain

If I hadn't read this book, I would probably not be writing historical novels today. I used to be terrified of history—I got dates wrong, I couldn't remember which king fought in which battle. With this novel, Rose Tremain blew the dust off the subject for me, making her hero, Robert Merivel, such a lusty, irreverent, genuine character that I could easily imagine having a drink with him in a London pub. He becomes a favorite of King Charles II but makes the mistake of falling in love with the wrong girl and tumbles from grace. It's a rollicking, heartbreaking tale with an irresistible protagonist. It showed me that historical novels can build bridges between the past and the present without being stuffy or alienating.


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