I have spent an incredible amount of time on trains in the last few weeks, and one thing that makes the tedium of travel bearable is a good book on my kindle. Deborah Swift kindly sent me an ARC Pleasing Mr Pepys in return for an honest review which I am delighted to give. My time on trains flew by with this to focus on.
Set in Restoration London, Deb Willet is a bright intelligent and educated young woman who takes on the position of companion to Elizabeth Pepys (the wife of the famous diarist) to get away from her rather horrid aunt. But, this is England in the 1660s when rivalry
with the Dutch Republic was at its height, and Deb is in the home of the Secretary to the Admiralty. She becomes embroiled with the actress and Dutch spy Abigail Williams. What could be wrong with that? Well it’s spying, it’s treason, and it’s going to lead to trouble. What unfolds is a thriller par excellence set against the backdrop of Charles II’s London, and the second Anglo-Dutch War. The plotting is clever (worthy of John Le Carre) and it kept me guessing. Expect twists and reveals that will shock you, and keep you gripped right to the end of the book.
The spot on portrayals of real historical characters and Restoration London are wonderful. Pepys is delightfully pompous, intelligent, bumbling and pervy, and seeing him from the point of view of the women in the household is brilliantly done. Swift lets you inhabit her world with the effortless immersion in detail and daily lives of the Seventeenth Century. She has taken dusty, little known, figures from history and really breathed life into them. On top of this is a plot that twists and turns and rattles along at a good pace. It’s a spy thriller wrapped in historical detail that I cannot recommend highly enough. Deborah is one of my favourite writers and this is the best book I have read by her so far (See my review for A Divided Inheritance).