My rating: 1 of 5 stars
It is a rare thing for me to dislike a book as much as I did this one; even rarer for me to finish it, but I felt I had to, if only to see if things improved. They didn’t. This was simply not my cup of tea, and I don’t believe that is entirely Clare Clark’s fault. I was seduced by the back-cover blurb which made it appear that the predominant portion of this novel took place during the Great Fire of 1666. That is a period in English – and particularly London – history which I adore. I’m all about the Restoration era as escapism.
However, the bulk (i.e. all but the prologue) of this novel occurs in 1718, at which point I am bored with the Hanovers and aching for some French Revolutionary action to occur. I am not a girl who enjoys the Enlightenment period, particularly its more scientific episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to the Newtonians, the Voltaires, and the London coffee houses, but they’re just not sexy. Charles II (minus the chance of catching the clap from him) is hot; Jane Austen-era England is hot; English history post-Rob Roy and pre-Culloden is… well, boring.
Many of these chapters I believed recounted the exact same details as the former; there was not enough forward action to keep me going, or to make the characters believable. There were also too many loose ends in the final chapters that seemed unkempt, if not worse. Lackadaisical is a word that comes to mind; again, not necessarily Clark’s fault, but certainly some of the blame falls on her editors, who refused to bring out the necessary blue pencil.
If you want some 1666-era fun, go rent Restoration, or re-read Pepys, or have a go at some Aphra Behn comedies. If you are scientifically minded and interested in shady polemics on early attempts at nature vs. nurture and bio-medical iffy-ness, then The Nature of Monsters should be your next reading choice.
As for me, I wish I had started reading something else sooner.
Midatlantic Musings by Jane G. V. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.