Restoration London: Everyday Life in the 1660s by Liza Picard

565274Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Liza Picard’s Elizabethan London, I knew I was in for a real treat when I discovered her book, Restoration London: Everyday Life in the 1660s. I wasn’t disappointed. Using sources from the era (in particular, extracts from Samuel Pepys diary) as well as almanacs, government papers, letters, tourists of the times’ impressions, Picard paints a wonderful picture of one of the most eminent cities in the world from 1660-1670, London.

Emerging out of the chaos of the last decade and a half, which saw one king (Charles I) beheaded and an Interregnum government headed by The Protector, Oliver Cromwell established, before the heir to the throne, the apparently, pleasure-loving but also diplomatic and lusty Charles II was restored, Picard immerses the reader in life during this last stage – a stage that involved the casting off of parliamentary rule and Puritan shackles and return to monarchy and all that entailed.

We enter stately homes, shops, ships as well as wander the streets and learn everything from what the rich, “middling” and poor ate (or didn’t), their superstitions, sexual habits, toileting, washing, and even how they cleaned their teeth. We discover the sicknesses they succumbed to (not forgetting the Plague that struck in 1665), the dreadful remedies offered; what they bought, wore, how they addressed each other and even their secret desires. Religion played a huge role in this period of conflict and xenophobia, and Picard doesn’t hold back on addressing this either and how and where people prayed and the kinds of communities they established.

The insights she gives are so beautifully written and, at times, imagined, and she has this wonderful quirky way of sometimes commenting on habits and idiosyncrasies of individuals or, indeed, the general populace, that had me bursting out laughing.

I will read this again in hardback (when the copy I ordered arrives) as I read this on Kindle and marked up so many passages, I need to be able to enjoy them again, but this time in print where I can access her extensive footnotes as well.

Highly recommended for lovers of history or even those who enjoy entertaining and really informative reads that keep an eye on the reader and the time they are writing from as well.

Can’t wait to read more by this wonderful lawyer-cum-historian.

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Book Review: The Tudor Conspiracy by C. W Gortner

While I really enjoyed The Tudor Secret by CW Gortner, I simply loved The Tudor Conspiracy. Picking up a short time after the events in The Tudor Conspiracy (The Spymaster Chronicles, #2)The Tudor Secret, we find Queen Mary upon the throne and negotiations for her marriage well under way. Our hero, Brendan Prescott, and his love, Kate are embedded in Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield. Not for long. Summoned by William Cecil, Brendan has no choice but to journey to London and find employ at the royal court, feigning an allegiance to Queen Mary, the woman he once helped. Though he is sympathetic towards Queen Mary, Brendan is really at court to protect the Princess Elizabeth from the plots and cunning of not only the Spanish delegation, but even Elizabeth’s so-called friend and Brendan’s former employer, Robert Dudley who, though locked in the tower, appears to be manipulating events. With the Spaniards determined to indict Elizabeth for treason and deliver a death sentence and the Dudley’s working for their own ends, Brendan has his work cut out.

Ensconced among the courtiers, Brendan doesn’t know who to trust, or where to turn and is forced to make decisions, decisions that prove deadly and place not just his Princess at risk, but those he loves.

Fast-paced, evocative and well-written, this is a page turner par excellence that takes known history and turns it on its head in exciting and plausible ways. Cannot wait for the next instalment.

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