- Paperback: 464 pages
- Genre : Historical Fiction
- Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
- Source: Sent to me by the author in eBook format in return for an honest and unbiased review.
- Review Quote : “A real triumph….A vivid imagining of the restoration London of Charles II with Nell Gwynn as a powerful and engaging heroine set in the busy world of the theatre. This debut novel captures the glamorous world of the amoral court and the struggle of the city. Priya Parmar is a writer to watch.” — Philippa Gregory
I think this will be the first of many successful novels that we will see in the years to come from this talented young lady. The fact that Philippa Gregory has commented so enthusiastically also convinced me that Priya Parmar is a name to watch. Until recently Philippa Gregory was the only historical authoress I read with any regularity as I have always been impressed by the way her novels are well researched to combine fact with fiction.
This is exactly what Priya Parmar has done with her debut novel by choosing a real person Nell Gwynn as her protagonist and she has written an excellent fictional story around the facts. Nell Gwynn was in her day the most famous actress in London and the King’s mistress. Written in the form of diary entries, newspaper gossip columns, letters, home remedies, invitations and court announcements the reader is quickly immersed in 17C life revolving around the Gwynn family. The diaries open when Nell is only 12 and her sister Rose 14. She lives with her mother Nora and her grandfather Dr Edward Gwynn who used to live in Oxford with his sister Margaret, but has moved to London to keep an eye on his granddaughters as their mother is always drunk and his son Thomas their father is dead.
Nell Gwynn – Wikipedia
It is after Ellen "Nell" Gwyn begins working as an orange girl in the Theatre Royal, Convent Garden, that leads to her discovery and eventual career as an actress. Her natural charm and personality also lead to her in time being noticed by the notorious ladies man King Charles II. Her diaries show Nell to be a captivating young lady who struggles to support herself rather than falling into the same traps as her alcoholic mother and sister who work as prostitutes.
I knew the story of Nell Gwynn and the historical setting before reading this book as this was a period I studied at school. I do not recall it being so interesting in our textbooks though! In my opinion Priya Parmar has succeeded in writing a realistic portrayal of characters from English history that make for a very readable novel which I highly recommend, this is the sort of novel that makes history interesting.
I was sorry to reach the last page because I wanted more!
Additional Info : This novel would make an excellent choice for Book Club Groups as not only is there so much material to discuss but included are excellent notes and an interview with Priya Parmar to guide such discussion.
Please take the minute and half needed to watch this video, it gives nothing away, in fact I think it will tempt you even more to read Exit The Actress.
Born in Hawaii but currently living in London, researching her next novel which is set in the first World War. She is a former dramaturge, ( a professional position within a theatre company that deals mainly with research and development of plays) and freelance editor with degrees in literature and theatre and is currently studying for a doctorate with the University of Edinburgh.
I have included links to all the websites which I used for my research, either with reference to the author or about Nell Gwynn.