Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The King's Touch by Jude Morgan

This is going to be a short review, because I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and the pithy things I might have said are no longer fresh in my mind.

The King's Touch is told in the first person by Jemmy (James, Duke of Monmouth), the best-known bastard son of Charles II. It covers his life from his childhood with his beautiful, unstable mother to his decision to lead his rebellion against James II. Though Jemmy's military adventures play a part in this novel, this is by no means an action-packed tale. Nor is it concerned chiefly with the politics of the age, though they of course play an important background role. Rather, the focus is on Jemmy's relationships, most especially with his enigmatic father

Having been reading some other bloggers' thoughts about reviewing, it's struck me that my favorable reviews tend to be similar to each other: I praise the author's characterizations and writing style. That's no accident, because character to me is what the essence of novel writing is about; if I can't connect with the people in a novel on some level, the novel doesn't work for me. So having said that, you'll not be surprised to hear that I enjoyed The King's Touch chiefly for its characters. They're vivid and memorable, particularly Charles II and Jemmy himself.

Morgan's writing style is also a treat: elegant yet unfussy, and full of little gems like this comment about Jemmy's grandmother, Queen Henrietta Maria, who's just been told by Charles that he wants Jemmy raised as a Protestant:
My grandmother sat down tragically. (I cannot give a clear idea of tragical sitting-down, but my grandmother could manage it.)


The dialogue here sparkles, and is appropriate to the characters, some of the best lines being too bawdy to quote on this blog. Here's a random sample from Jemmy's cousin Mary, who's not looking forward to her wedding day:
"Then I am very well. But I am not, of course. It is not true, by the by, that I wept two days together after Father told me I was to marry Prince William. It was only a day and a half."


This was a great read. Pick it up.

6 comments:

Alianore said...

Sounds great! I know very little about Monmouth (or 17th century history in general), and this novel seems like it would be a really good way to learn more about him. Love the humorous dialogue.

Carla said...

It's humour, particularly dry wit, that tends to catch my eye in novels. Possibly because that helps me engage with the character, or possibly because witty humour seems to go with interesting and well-rounded characters. It's possible to do good characters without humour, but I've a feeling that it's rare to do good humour without good characters.
This one sounds interesting, so thanks for the review. I seem to remember reading a theory that Mary was in love with Monmouth - is that used in the novel?

Alison said...

I do have an affection for Charles II, and the quote caught my imagination. I'll have to put it on my to-read list.

Susan Higginbotham said...

It's definitely worth the read. I plan to read his other novels later.

Carla, James does describe Mary as being "a little in love" with him, but it's portrayed as a girlish feeling out of which nothing comes. I liked his portrayal of Mary, who's not the lump she often is in historical fiction.

RightOnPeachtree said...

Susan, thanks for the review. Can I ask you a question?

I've never read "historical fiction". How much of these stories are normally true/real? I ask because my great(x7)grandfather was supposedly the secretary to the Duke of Monmouth and may even have been related to him. I have thought about buying this book on the hope that my ancestor is mentioned. Do you know if the other characters in the book are real or are they all fictional? Any guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

MK
Atlanta, GA

Susan Higginbotham said...

Most of the characters in this particular novel are real historical figures.

As for historical fiction, it varies. Some novels feature purely fictional characters in historical settings, others feature historical figures. I prefer the latter, but it's a matter of taste.