Friday, November 11, 2011
Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar
"While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution, to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the luminaries of Restoration England.
Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart -- and he hers --but even the most powerful love isn't enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance."
(from the publisher)
Darn it, I really wanted to love this book!
It has all the ingredients of a great big juicy read about everyone's favorite orange-girl-turned-actress-turned-favorite-mistress-of-Charles II, but for me, it didn't quite all come together. It's quite a lovely novel to behold, from the gorgeous cover to the interior which consists of diary excerpts, playbills, letters, gossip columns, recipes, and other snippets of seventeenth century life. However, I found myself skimming and scanning, trying to find the real "meat" and was a little disappointed that the pieces, while interesting, didn't make for a satisfying whole. A strong beginning, a large cast of players and characters, but would have liked a bit more depth.
A pleasant read, perhaps good for someone just beginning to explore Restoration England or the mistresses of Charles II. (I'm always glad to give a balanced review, and Exit the Actress has received many 5 star ratings, so this is just my view.)
Title: Exit the Actress
Author: Priya Parmar
Simon & Schuster