November 16, 2003

An aimless ramble?

By the way, I did finish Quicksilver. I skipped ahead a bit until it seemed more interesting to me.

I'd say it's a book well worth reading but not one I'm going to buttonhole people to recommend. For while it was an interesting journey, with many curious sights and adventures, I'm not at all sure where I've arrived. Of course it's but the first of three volumes, and not doubt the point will become clear soon enough....

I kept waiting for it to turn into a "historical novel," but it doesn't seem to fit the genre. For instance, Daniel Waterhouse, having drifted rather aimlessly through his life, is present at the death of Charles II, and the accession of James II. He is appalled that a Catholic has become King of England, and bestirs himself to do something about it. He becomes an important figure in the Glorious Revolution, the plot to bring the Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary (daughter of James) to the throne. He is, in the book, the man who carries the famous letters from various English noblemen, inviting William to invade.

Now, in any ordinary historical novel, this would be the climax of the story! The point of it all! But once it becomes clear that William is coming in, Daniel seems to lose interest, and drifts along on the periphery of events. And the whole revolution passes off much too easily, and is obviously not what we have read 900 pages to get to. Anybody know where we are heading?

I liked this bit, which has the flavor of the time. Eliza has just encountered King Louis XIV:

"D'Avaux says you are good with money," the King said.

I say D'Avaux is good at flattering young ladies,' I answered.

"It is an error for you to feign modesty when you are talking to me," the King said, firmly but not angrily.

I saw my error. We use humility when we fear that someone will consider us a rival or a threat; and while this may be true of common or even noble men, it can never be true of le Roi and so to use humility in His Majesty's presence is to imply that the King shares the petty jealousies and insecurities of others...

Posted by John Weidner at November 16, 2003 8:57 PM
Weblog by John Weidner