By 1683, Merivel has ripened into late middle age, but neither his love for his beautiful daughter, Margaret, nor his comfortable existence at Norfolk’s Bidnold Manor relieves his melancholy. Wanting to be “dazzled by Wonders,” he travels to Versailles, hoping to become a court physician, but is let down by its glittering emptiness and his own sartorial foibles. His affair with an unhappily married Swiss noblewoman brings him happiness but comes with unexpected burdens.
Whether facing the illnesses of those closest to him, acting upon his lustful impulses, or pondering his responsibilities to his servants and king, Merivel finds that the compassionate and selfish aspects of his character are inextricably tangled. In a tone moving from contemplative and sad to uproariously funny and back again, Tremain masterfully captures the voice of a man searching for a satisfying and meaningful life as Charles II’s once-glorious reign winds down. It’s an absolute pleasure to spend time in Merivel’s company.
Rose Tremain's Merivel: A Man of His Time will be published by W.W. Norton on April 15th ($26.95, hb, 384pp), so you may have to wait a bit, but you can always get your preorders placed if you're so inclined. If you're in the UK or Canada, where it appeared from Chatto & Windus last September (£18.99, hb), you can pick it up now. I read it last month (the above is the starred review I wrote for Booklist's 2/1 issue), and I'm sure it will make my top 10 of 2013.
If you're at ALA Midwinter now, Library Journal's Galley & Signing Guide says that Merivel "will be given away at the booth during the Spotlight on Adult Literature, Saturday, 1/26, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m." Norton is at booth 2409.