Book Review: Exit the Actress – Priya Parmar

Title: Exit the Actress
Author: Priya Parmar
ISBN: 9781439171172
Pages: 464
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Ellen Gwyn is a working class girl living in London in the mid-to-late 1600s.  She finds work selling oranges in front of the theater and is relieved – after all, her worst nightmare is to become a prostitute like her sister, Rose.  Her dazzling wit and charm impress those at the theater, and it isn’t long before Nell is asked to work as a supporting actress.  As her star rises farther than she ever thought it could, Nell catches the eye of the king, and all of London begins to wonder whether he might be interested in her.

Review:

I don’t know much about Ellen “Nell” Gwyn, except for the fact that she was a royal mistress of Charles II, so the prospect of learning more about her intrigued me.  I have to admit, though, when I first started this novel, I was hesitant.  It’s told in a diary format, which doesn’t usually appeal to me, and it took me awhile to really get into the narrative.  However, I’m glad I stuck with it because I was rewarded with a delightful protagonist, wonderful historical details, and an entertaining glimpse into life at court and behind the scenes at the theater.

Nell was simply a wonderful heroine in Exit the Actress.  She was spunky and smart, and I couldn’t help but love her.  I really appreciated Parmar’s ability to write a sympathetic woman with a mind of her own.  Nell walked a very fine line in this book, trying to maintain her reputation while also enjoying life and living every moment to the fullest.  I thought she was very well crafted and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her.

Priya Parmar is clearly a talented author, and she did a wonderful job with her debut novel.  As I mentioned before, the novel is told in a diary format, and I was surprised at how well done it was, considering I don’t usually take to books written in this way.  In between Nell’s entries are announcements, royal letters, and gossip columns, such that the reader receives a broad and varied view of what life was like at the time.  Through Nell’s experiences, the reader gets to see both how the poor live, as well as the sumptuousness of court.  Parmar’s historical details are excellent, and it’s clear she undertook a substantial amount of research before writing this story.

The glimpses the reader received of Charles II were also tantalizing.  This novel takes place at a very interesting time in English history – Charles II’s father, Charles I, had been executed by Oliver Cromwell after the English Civil War.  After an unsuccessful experiment with democracy, Charles II was restored and the monarchy continued.  The reader can see that these experiences have really affected Charles II, but also that he hides it extremely well.  I appreciated how the novel focused on Nell, yet still took the broader history into account.

Exit the Actress is a charming novel that I highly recommend to any fans of historical fiction.  Though Nell is immediately loveable, it takes some time for the story to start, but I encourage readers to stick with the book.  You’ll be rewarded with a wonderful story and a well-researched look into 17th century England.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Comments

  1. Thanks – I’m going to check this one out.

  2. Thanks – I’m going to check this one out.

  3. Beautiful cover! I don’t know much about Charles II except for the dynastic issues, so it’s appealing for that. I’m not keen on diary format either, usually, but when it’s historical for some reason it’s easier to read than contemporary for me.

  4. Beautiful cover! I don’t know much about Charles II except for the dynastic issues, so it’s appealing for that. I’m not keen on diary format either, usually, but when it’s historical for some reason it’s easier to read than contemporary for me.

  5. I have long been interested in Nell and have wanted to read a book about her for awhile, so this review really piqued my interest. Though the diary format doesn’t really excite me, the fact that this book explores the world of the poor as well as the rich really entices me. Often I wonder about what life was like during that time for those who were not wealthy, and this book seems to really address that. Thanks for the excellent review. This one goes to the top of my list!

  6. I have long been interested in Nell and have wanted to read a book about her for awhile, so this review really piqued my interest. Though the diary format doesn’t really excite me, the fact that this book explores the world of the poor as well as the rich really entices me. Often I wonder about what life was like during that time for those who were not wealthy, and this book seems to really address that. Thanks for the excellent review. This one goes to the top of my list!

  7. This sounds really good. I will have to see about getting a copy.

  8. This sounds really good. I will have to see about getting a copy.

  9. I do enjoy a book told in a diary format, but have struggled to get into books set in that time period. Maybe this would be a good one for me to try.

  10. I do enjoy a book told in a diary format, but have struggled to get into books set in that time period. Maybe this would be a good one for me to try.

  11. Glad you enjoyed this one! The lush cover immediately caught my eye, but I’m not sure if I could get into the historical diary format or not . . . hmm. Possibly!

  12. Glad you enjoyed this one! The lush cover immediately caught my eye, but I’m not sure if I could get into the historical diary format or not . . . hmm. Possibly!

  13. I’d like to get to this soon! Beautiful cover as well. Thanks for this post.

  14. I’d like to get to this soon! Beautiful cover as well. Thanks for this post.

  15. Well this one sounds pretty good. The length scares me off a little but it sounds like a great topic for a historical fiction!

  16. Well this one sounds pretty good. The length scares me off a little but it sounds like a great topic for a historical fiction!

  17. I loved the cover too! An overall very interesting 🙂

  18. I loved the cover too! An overall very interesting 🙂

  19. Oh I know what you mean about the diary format. It can be hard to get into.

  20. Oh I know what you mean about the diary format. It can be hard to get into.

  21. I’m also not a fan of the diary style. It takes me a while to sink into the narrative. But it does sound like it’ll be an interesting read. I’m looking out more for historical fiction.

  22. I’m also not a fan of the diary style. It takes me a while to sink into the narrative. But it does sound like it’ll be an interesting read. I’m looking out more for historical fiction.

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:  I welcome comments and read each one I receive. If your comment needs a response, I will provide it in a timely manner, as I read every comment I receive. Please keep your comments civil and polite! I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or inappropriate. Because of spam, I have to moderate comments on old posts. Please be patient - I will approve your comment quickly.

Before the tag in the Genesis footer: !-- Quantcast Tag -->