Restoration (Tremain novel)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||Merivel: A Man of His Time|
Tremain later wrote a sequel called Merivel: A Man of His Time, published in 2012.
The novel tells the story of Robert Merivel, who begins the book as a medical student, studying alongside his serious, practical friend John Pearce. John is a studious, pious counterpart to Merivel's shallow obsession with status, drinking and eating to excess. Pearce condemns the sinfulness of Merivel's lifestyle, but Merivel is unaffected by his comments.
Merivel is asked by his father to visit the King with the aim of continuing their family's connection with the royal family, but Merivel embarrasses both of them by his nervousness. However, later, King Charles II asks Merivel to care for one of his dogs, which is grievously ill. Merivel's decision not to apply any of the traditional cures of the era leads to the dog recovering naturally, and he is then appointed surgeon to all of the king's dogs. The King then arranges a marriage of convenience between Merivel and one of his mistresses, Celia Clemence. This is done purely to fool the king's other mistress Barbara Castlemaine. Merivel is given an estate named Bidnold in Norfolk, and Celia is installed in a house in Kew, where the King can visit her secretly.
In Norfolk, Merivel abandons the practice of medicine, and lives a life of luxury in which he tries to take up painting with the help of an ambitious painter named Elias Finn, and indulges in failed attempts to learn the oboe. Celia is then sent to Bidnold by the King after displeasing him. One night Merivel drunkenly makes advances towards her, and is promptly reported to the King by Elias Finn. The result is that Merivel is evicted from Bidnold and left close to destitute.
Merivel joins his old student friend John Pearce at the New Bedlam hospital, also in Norfolk. This is a hospital for the mentally ill, run by Quakers, of whom Pearce is a member. Merivel joins the hospital with the best of intentions, and hoping to rediscover his medical vocation. However, he develops a romantic connection to a mentally ill patient named Katherine, whom he eventually sleeps with, and impregnates. In addition, John Pearce demonstrates an illness which Merivel is unable to treat, despite his best efforts, and slowly sickens and dies. After Pearce's death, Merivel is asked to leave New Bedlam and take Katherine with him, since the Quakers believe their love will cure her illness and this is only possible outside in the world.
Merivel and Katherine travel to London to live with Katherine's mother, in London, which is undergoing the Great Plague. During this time, Merivel regains some of his fortune by selling John Pearce's recipe for a plague restorative, and reunites with Elias Finn, who has fallen out of favor with the King. Unfortunately, Katherine dies in childbirth, but Merivel's surgical skills are such that he is able to save their baby, whom he names Margaret.
During the Great Fire of London in 1666, Merivel rescues an elderly woman from a burning house when nobody else will help, stirred by memories of his own mother dying in similar circumstances when others could not help her. He gives his card to someone in the vicinity who asks for his name to pray for him. This card eventually ends up being passed to the King, who is suitably impressed by Merivel's personality change through time from fool to selfless individual. It is revealed that the King has purchased Bidnold for his own leisure purposes, but he grants to Merivel that he and his daughter be allowed to live there for as long as he lives.
The title of the novel refers both to the Restoration period during which it occurs, and to the novel's ending when Merivel returns to Bidnold and the king's favour.