Saturday, 24 August 2019

ENTERTAINING MR PEPYS by Deborah Swift @swiftstory

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Deborah Swift is one of my favourite authors, and she very kindly offered me a review copy, but I've bought it on pre-order anyway!

In a Nutshell: 17th century historical fiction, set in London.

What an excellent trilogy this is!  Three books set in the Restoration era London of Samuel Pepys, with him as a secondary character. I think #2 is still my favourite (actually one of my favourite books of the past ten years), but I loved this one too.

This is the story of Mary Elizabeth 'Bird' Knepp, a young woman stuck in a ghastly prison of a marriage, until one day she goes to the theatre, and knows straight away that this is where she is meant to be.  But this is no drudgery-to-diamonds historical romance, despite her flirtations with Pepys; it's 17th century London at its most filthy, squalid and hungry.  Each time I read one of Ms Swift's books set in London during this time, I think 'I really must read Pepys's diary - I really AM going to, this time!

The book is not just about Bird, but also Livvy, her Dutch maid, living in England at a time when being Dutch is almost as bad as being Catholic.  Then there is Stefan, a young theatre player who realises something about himself when he is no longer allowed to play female parts - and Christopher Knepp, Bird's taciturn husband.  There are some other wonderful secondary characters, too, such as Knepp's cantankerous old mother, and Bird's horribly superficial father - and 17th century theatre itself; such a vivid, fascinating picture is painted.

The climax of covers the last twenty per cent, with the Great Fire of London - I was utterly gripped all the way through; it brought the horror of those days to life in the way that no other account I've read ever has.

The books intertwine but are complete stand-alones, so you can read them in any order.  They're SO worth reading; I read this in three days because I didn't want to put it down.  Do give this series ago - you'll feel as if you're in Pepys's London with the turn of every page.  Honestly.


  1. I've definitely got to read this one, Terry. Heading off to download!

    1. Ooh good, I look forward to seeing what you think! x