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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Hugely Entertaining Pageant

Restoration - Rose Tremain

Restoration is the story of Robert Merrivel, the son of James the second's glove-maker and a man very much of his age, dedicated, as the book opens, to little more than pleasure and idleness but doomed to experience a series of triumphs and disasters that will develop in him a greater understanding of both himself and society he inhabits.

Rose Tremain presents an impressive pageant of Restoration life from the court of James the Second to the inside of an insane asylum run by Quakers, from the bedroom of a laundry-woman cum prostitute, to the living-room of a widowed letter-writer for the illiterate poor. In doing so, she pulls off the trick of convincingly re-creating a bygone age, while at the same time underlining how little has really changed beneath the surface.

Written in a confident and appealing voice, this is a hugely entertaining read, not least because of Rose Tremain's delightful ear for a spicy turn of phrase. The Great Fire of London is raging; all the inhabitants of one street have fled their houses, except for one old woman who remains oblivious to the cries of her neighbours; Merrivel asks a bystander whether the woman is deaf. 'As my prick to a Sunday sermon,' the man replies.