Entertaining Mr Pepys is the third and final chapter of Deborah Swift’s trilogy on that most famous naval administrator/diarist of the late seventeenth century: Samuel Pepys. That said, it can be read as a standalone work – although I read the first book in the series, I wasn’t able to read the second one, but that did not impact my reading of the third book. I really hope to get the chance to read the second book at some point!
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the cover. I looooove it- and all of the covers in this series are lovely.
Although Pepys and his wife, Elisabeth, are present throughout the book, the main character is Mary Elizabeth, or ‘Bird’, who is a young woman with an exceptionally beautiful singing voice who eventually becomes the Mrs Knepp we know from Pepys’s diary. We see her tackle or endure difficult situations with equally difficult people – including an emotionally-damaged husband – and it was ultimately rewarding to see how her character was by the novel’s end.
Swift is unquestionably a great writer with a large and impressive oeuvre, and I’m a huge fan of her work. That said, this book covers some very heavy topics which include topics such as religious persecution, slavery, domestic abuse, a person who is what we’d now call transgender, racial tensions, abortion – among other things – and is no light-hearted read, so be prepared for that. It’s rather grim and gripping at times, what with the Great Plague and the Fire and all – and about 75% through the book, an event occurs which struck me personally so severely that I had to stop reading it for several days. It literally made me “ugly cry”. Other people may not have that kind of reaction, but this is how it affected me.
That said, the story had me and I often stayed up late until I could read no more because I was so interested in it. In short, another gem from Deborah Swift!
TSCL rating: 4/5