I confess I was reluctant to begin this book that a friend gave to me. It looked just a tiny bit like hard work (and it's by no means recent), but I got stuck in as one might a pile of washing up. Washing up may not be my favourite activity, but once you get started it's never really that bad.
How wrong I was. After a few pages of adjusting to the main character's narration style my transport back to Charles II's reign was fairly painless and before long I was finding it hard to put down. The main character is a lecherous, vain buffoon, but his saving grace is his endearing ability to laugh at himself, and you soon find yourself liking him. The first part of the book is a bawdy romp whilst narrator Merival basks in the sun of Charles's favour. As soon as that favour is withdrawn, however, the novel takes a sudden different turn, as Merival is cast out into a spiritual wilderness: stripped of his wealth and the happiness he derived from his baser pleasures, he begins to discover his own humanity.
If that sounds dull and preachy then please don't be put off. It is a surprisingly easy read, though crammed with fascinating historical detail, and containing a deeper philosophical heart. Stick with it, it pays dividends. Merival feels very real and will stay with me for a long time.