Exit the Actress, by Priya Parmar (2011), certainly caught my attention as I was walking through the bookstore-that-shall-not-be-named. I rarely find anything worthwhile there, but my hubby loves the history section. Having stayed at the Nell Gwyn house this summer, I instantly picked the book up and took it to the register.
It’s difficult to read a historical fiction text about the time period you love and study intensely. I usually get frustrated by historical missteps and have, once or twice, thrown a book across the room in pure rage. Parmar’s novel, though, captivated me until the end. Perhaps it’s because Parmar is a doctoral student at Edinburgh, or perhaps it’s the fast-paced journal-like format of the novel, or perhaps it’s that she characterized some of my favorite eighteenth-century figures in subtle ways I hadn’t thought of, but still ring true to the research.
The novel is about Nell Gwyn, her rise to fame on the London stage, and her love affair with Charles. It encompasses many historical events and factoids, but they’re all related though Nell’s eyes, which makes them come to life. In sum, I enjoyed it both for the historical reality and the plot. I’m looking forward to her next endeavor!