Entertaining Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift
Elizabeth ‘Bird’ Carpenter has a wonderful singing voice, and music is her chief passion. When her father persuades her to marry horse-dealer Christopher Knepp, she suspects she is marrying beneath her station, but nothing prepares her for the reality of life with Knepp. Her father has betrayed her trust, for Knepp cares only for his horses; he is a tyrant and a bully, and will allow Bird no life of her own.
When Knepp goes away, she grasps her chance and, encouraged by her maidservant Livvy, makes a secret visit to the theatre. Entranced by the music, the glitter and glamour of the surroundings, and the free and outspoken manner of the women on the stage, she falls in love with the theatre and is determined to forge a path of her own as an actress.
But life in the theatre was never going to be straightforward – for a jealous rival wants to spoil her plans, and worse, Knepp forbids it, and Bird must use all her wit and intelligence to change his mind.
Based on events depicted in the famous Diary of Samuel Pepys, Entertaining Mr Pepys brings London in the 17th Century to life. It includes the vibrant characters of the day such as the diarist himself and actress Nell Gwynne, and features a dazzling and gripping finale during the Great Fire Of London.
The third in Deborah Swift’s atmospheric trilogy, bringing to life the women in Pepys’ Diary. Each novel features a different character and can be read as a stand-alone book.
Entertaining Mr. Pepys begins in 1659 when Mary Elizabeth "Bird" Carpenter enters a loveless marriage that has been arranged by her father. It is also when she first meets Livvy, a blackamoor, and a very special friendship begins between Bird and her maid. Bird's life with Christopher Knepp isn't easy and and it is Livvy who helps her through these times. Bird even considers going back to her father's house and when she does, she finds that 'Dorcas was putting her 'woman's touch' on her family home, eliminating her father's former life, and by doing it, claiming if for her own. It was clear enough to Bird that she could never be able to come back here.' Recognizing the inevitable, Bird returns to her husband Christopher Knepp and it is only after many tragedies, including the fire that destroyed London, that she sees him in a new light. 'So this is what it is, to be married, Bird thought. To lean on each other in times of hardsip and know the other will always be there. A comforting quietness fell over her.'
This book is large in its number of pages and it is huge in content. I enjoy historical fiction but I haven't read any books centered on this time period and it is apparent that author Deborah Swift has done extensive reseach to portray London as it was in the 17th century. Her description of The Great Fire of London is riveting and I also enjoyed learning about Bird's introduction to the theatre and her eventual success as Elizabeth Knepp, the actress who enjoyed a friendship with Samuel Pepys. The final chapter relates Bird's successful appearance at The King's Playhouse in March, 1667, when The King himself was in the audience, along with Pepys, his wife Elizabeth, and Bird's husband and father. This woman, who had witnessed so many tragedies and experienced so many hurts, was finally able to feel love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
This is the third book in Swift's trilogy centered around Samuel Pepys. I haven't read the first two but my enjoyment wasn't diminished by this and I hope to read the first two. I appreciate that at the end of this book, there are historical notes so that we understand what was true and what was fictional during this famous man's life. I recommend Entertaining Mr. Pepys to all who enjoy historical fiction.
I appreciate the chance to read an advance copy of this book and I am voluntarily sharing my thoughts. These are my honest thoughts and I received no monetary compensation for this review.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
PRAISE FOR THE PEPYS TRILOGY
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