Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Source: ARC courtesy Simon & Schuster
Synopsis: While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s 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 theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England. Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the 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. Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine.
Loved it! Loved it! Exit The Actress is a delightful look at Ellen (Nell) Gywn and the loves of her life; the theatre, King Charles II (her third Charles) and her dear family & friends. Through Nell's journal entries, letters, Privy Council notations, gossip column extras, recipes and remedies from the Lady's Household Companion, the reader gets an intimate look at a cast of lively characters, the excitement of the theatre and the colour of the royal court, the horror and heartbreak of the plague and the great fire of London. Priya Parmar writes with a captivating vividness that I found refreshing and completely engaging.
I was familiar with Nell and her time spent as Charles's mistress before picking up Exit the Actress but I loved the indepth look at her life in the theatre and the joy and freedom of spirit it brought her. Nell first joined Theatre Royal as an orange girl but by the age of 14 she had progressed to acting. Theatre historian Eizabeth Howe states in The First English Actresses that Nell was "the most famous Restoration actress of all time, possessed of an extraordinary comic talent." and Parmar captures the essence of this beautifully.
Nell Gwyn is a breath of fresh air to read of; effervescent, natural, charming, she inspires love in many ... this quote from her first lover, actor Charles Hart embodies that sentiment.
"You inspire a man to be more than he is, Ellen. To reach and grow and thrive. A man cannot do that by standing still. I understand that now. Your love will not root in quiet ground."
Ms Parmar drew me in to Nell's world so intimately and eloquently I truly felt like part of the theatre family. I adored many of the characters, Teddy especially so, what an absolute darling and I do declare that Ambrose Pink "Ever your eyes and ears" has a distinct 'Teddy' feel.
Priya Parmar is definitely an author to watch, an exciting debut novelist in the world of historical fiction and I look forward to her next novel with much anticipation. Bravo Priya!
Visit Priya Parmar's website or her blog The Plum Bean Project to find out more about this talented author and her work.
Be sure to pop back in a day or two, Priya Parmar will be guest posting on my blog and up for grabs will be an autographed copy of Exit The Actress.
This month on The Eclectic Reader win The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner. Check this blog post for details!