Friday, January 28, 2011

Exit the Actress, Priya Parmar

Title:  Exit the Actress
Author:  Priya Parmar
Pages:  444
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Source:  I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What you'll love:  Everything.  Beautiful writing and engaging format.
What will bug you:  Nell's mother!

Release date:  February 1st!  Pre-order now!!!

225Set in 1660's England, Ellen "Nell" Gwyn begins working as an orange girl in the Theatre Royal, Convent Garden.  Eventually, she impresses the proprietors and begins her career as an actress.  Her charm earns her more prominent roles in the company, and over time, into the bed of King Charles II.  

Exit the Actress is told in the form of diary pages written by Nell, playbills, letters, gossip columns and home remedies.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed Exit the Actress.  Priya's writing is so inviting - she is able to create a connection between Nell and the reader.  The format of the book is a huge part of making this happen.  The diary entries seamlessly intertwine text that combine the feel of a journal entry with narrative and conversation.  Here's an example:
"Meg, who sells oranges in Convent Garden, Orange Moll, as she is known, stopped to speak to me today.  I was wearing a white smocked chemise under my new yellow pointed bodice that laces in the back, a present from Rose, Grandfather said I looked like a field of daisies.

"Turn, turn, so I can see!" encouraged Meg.  I obliged, twirling in my new clothes.  "Ah, fresh and sweet and always a favourite with the customers.  How do you like selling oysters?"

"They are smelly and the walk to the market is tedious and Mr. Morton is overly... forward." I answered candidly.  Will I ever learn to be discreet?

"I'll bet he is. How would you like to sell oranges instead?  I need one more girl for Mr. Killigrew's new theatre in Bridges Street."  She held out a fat, round orange.  "For the birthday girl."

"Thank you!" I said, pocketing the sweet fruit.  China oranges are such a luxury; I would save it to share with Grandfather.
Do you see what I mean?  It's as if the reader began reading Nell's entry and slipped off into the conversations of her memory - only to magically end up back in her diary.  The entries are informative, but very personal.  This is fantastic writing - my favorite part of the novel.  I also love how many of the entries give the day's weather, for example - "Wednesday, January 13 (unseasonably warm)".  It's such a small detail, but it adds a lot to the story.

Intermixing Nell's diary entries with the playbills, letters and home remedies is just ingenious.  It was a great way for the reader to be caught up on what's happening with King Charles II without Nell actually being witness to the events.  
The layout and flow of the story was very well executed.  

A series of entries, letters, etc. were grouped together under a "chapter" header which indicate a span of time - always starting with "When I...".  For example - "When I learn to Sing" or "When I tire of these games".  I really liked this.  It gave the reader an expectation of what's to come without giving away too much.

Now, these "chapters" are grouped within larger subsets dividing Nell's Life.  For example - "London Ellen", "Orange Girl Ellen", "Theatrical Ellen".  I loved this as well. 

The character of Nell is fantastic.  She's outspoken, scrappy, and confident.  I'd like for her and I to be friends.  She has a very distinct personality while remaining within the confines of the time period.  

Am I gushing?  I kind of feel like I'm gushing...

Priya Parmar divides her time between Hawaii and London.  Exit the Actress is her first novel.  Visit her website!

I can't say enough positive things about this book.  I loved it so much!

...and how exciting for you!  From now until February 28 you have a chance to win a copy of Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar!  Fill out the form below - you'll get an extra entry be following Kate's Library through Google Friend Connect or RSS feed, although being a follower is not required!  (...but it's appreciated!)  This giveaway is open internationally!  Winners will be announced on March 1st!

Disclosure - I received a free copy of Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar in exchange for an honest review!

Have you reviewed Exit the Actress?  Enter your review below!

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