Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

The Darling Strumpet details the life of Nell Gwynn in the late 1660's in England.  Nell started life as a child of poverty, never sure if she would have enough to eat or whether she and her drunken, abusive mother would have a place to live.  She escaped that life by becoming a prostitute at an early age, probably around eleven or twelve.

She and her sister meet a group of actors, who with the return of King Charles II, are reviving the London theatre.  She leaves the whorehouse for the theatre, starting as an orange-seller but then getting her heart's desire and moving to the stage where she became London's darling.  She also caught the attention of royalty and became the mistress of several lords and dukes.

Over time, she met and settled into a long-term relationship with King Charles himself.  They had two sons together and she was his mistress from her early twenties to the end of his life in her late thirties.  Although Charles had other mistresses and children, he always came back to Nell, who was his comfort.  She was also loved mightily by all who knew her and popular with the crowds of London

Gillian Bagwell has created a book that will be a delight to readers of historical fiction.  She does not attempt to hide the harshness of life--the plagues, the crime, the uncertainty of fortune.  The political atmosphere was charged as this was the start of the tension between Protestants and Catholics.  Succession to the king was always a charged issue, especially as in Charles's case, where he did not have a legitimate heir.  Although these issues are discussed, the tone of the book is rollicking and merry for the most part, drawing the reader along and entertaining as it educates.  This book is recommended for historical fiction readers.

1 comment:

Bookfool said...

"Rollicking" and "merry" . . . hmm. Sounds awfully fun!