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By the winner of the Walter Scott Prize for The Ten Thousand Things
Beneath the floorboards of a ruined house, an 18th-century memoir is discovered. It reveals the life story of William Congreve, the acclaimed English playwright. The lost manuscript is penned by his faithful servant, Jeremy, who tells how they lived together through fierce political division and triumphal nationalism in that era of war with France, the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.
Upon his death a monument in Stowe is erected to honour Mr Congreve. Atop a slender pyramid sits a monkey peering into a mirror, a court wit seeing reflected the ironies of polite society folding in on itself as Whigs and Tories feud with scant ground for compromise.
Through the prisms of memory and art, award-winning author John Spurling reimagines this tumultuous period and brings to life historical figures Dryden, Vanbrugh, Swift, Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu as never before.
All in all, the novel struck me as elegant and playful, a tonic for these trouble times.' Andrew Taylor, No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Ashes of London
‘A heartfelt memorial to the extraordinary William Congreve and to those who loved him. Spurling provides an imaginative way into a wonderful period for readers who prefer their historical tea mixed with the milk of fiction.’ Ophelia Field, Author of The Kit-Cat Club, and The Favourite
‘This cleverly constructed portrait of a great playwright and good man starts with the turbulent politics of the Restoration period and ends with a timeless love. As erudite and entertaining as Congreve himself.’ Carole Angier, biographer of Jean Rhys and Primo Levi