Exit the Actress

( 12 )

Overview

While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, ...

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Exit the Actress: A Novel

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Overview

While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England.

Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart—and he hers—but even the most powerful love isn’t enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance.

Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Part epistolary and part faux memoir, Parmar's debut brings a lesser-known bit of English history to life. Nell Gwyn's name has come down through history as an actress who became Charles II's mistress. Despite her humble beginnings, Nell rises quickly with a gift of mimicry, talent for dance, and a unique loveliness. Charles's charisma, meanwhile, is matched only by his reputation as a libertine, and once he realizes Nell wants him as a man and not a king, he falls for her, though their love must survive his scheming ex-mistresses, Nell's love of independence, and a tumultuous political backdrop. What separates this from other royal mistress tales is the real-feeling relationships between Gwyn, Charles, and Queen Catherine: Parmar resists the easy way out of polarizing the reader against either the cheating husband or the cuckolded wife, and Nell is a thoughtful protagonist and narrator. While the epistolary passages can feel contrived, this is a solid debut from a writer readers will want to see more from. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
A real triumph….A vivid imagining of the restoration London of Charles II with Nell Gwynn as a powerful and engaging heroine set in the busy world of the theater. This debut novel captures the glamorous world of the amoral court and the struggle of the city. Priya Parmar is a writer to watch.”
—Philippa Gregory
Author of The Other Boleyn Girl

"Clever ... a delight ... irresistible ... I loved this book."
Sharon Kay Penman, author of Devil's Brood

“Nell is irrepressible, spunky, delightful: who wouldn’t fall in love with her? Her story unfolds through diary entries, letters, news announcements, recipes. It's a tasty and often amusing confection, sure to please. I absolutely adored it.”
—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

From the Publisher
A real triumph….A vivid imagining of the restoration London of Charles II with Nell Gwynn as a powerful and engaging heroine set in the busy world of the theater. This debut novel captures the glamorous world of the amoral court and the struggle of the city. Priya Parmar is a writer to watch.”

—Philippa Gregory

Author of The Other Boleyn Girl

"Clever ... a delight ... irresistible ... I loved this book."

Sharon Kay Penman, author of Devil's Brood

“Nell is irrepressible, spunky, delightful: who wouldn’t fall in love with her? Her story unfolds through diary entries, letters, news announcements, recipes. It's a tasty and often amusing confection, sure to please. I absolutely adored it.”

—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439171172
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 446
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Priya Parmar

Priya Parmar, a former dramaturg and freelance editor holds degrees in English Literature and theatre and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She divides her time between Hawaii and London. Visit her website at PriyaParmar.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 6, 2011

    Fantastic!

    I loved it! Unique, beautiful, evocative and gorgeously wrought--this book knocked my socks off. I was daunted by the format as I am not usually drawn to diary style books but this format melted away immediately and I just sunk into the story. It flowed beautifully and I was utterly swept up. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Read this.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    Good, quick read

    I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, and a theatre nerd -- this combined both of my loves, and put them in one great book. This was a good, fairly quick read. It read much like a Philippa Gregory novel, and I was impressed with some of the factual basis for most of it. I highly recommend this for a light read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Absolutely Brilliant & Clever - 1600s, theater, Charles II, and Nelly Gwynn

    Books sweep you away into their world, but historical fiction makes you live in it.

    Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar takes place in the mid-1600s and tells the story of Ellen Gwynn, also known as Nell. Starting out as an orange seller to the audience during theater productions, and with a mother who is an alcoholic and a sister who is a prostitute, Nell rises into the world of stage acting and catches the eye of King Charles. Simultaneously becoming a friend to his queen, Nelly also becomes mistress to him. This could certainly present a problem, but Ellen's a sweet young woman who doesn't have ill intentions. She simply loves her man, loves her family, and loves her friends and she tells her story through journal entries, and it's one that truly captures the imagination effectively.

    Ellen was very much the people's actress, a young woman who rose up through society's ranks and became one with the King's courts, gallivanting with them on trips to the countryside, and developing relationships with noted historical figures. It was such a simple task to connect with Ellen and I found every single journal entry to be so engaging and cleverly written. I blushed in certain spots, giggled in others, and raged against injustices. I was hooked on the story, and the story didn't let me go.

    Priya Parmar did one heck of a job keeping the story relatable to contemporary times without losing any edge of the 1600s. Her attention to detail was both breathtaking and refreshing, and my personal favorites were the snippets of articles written by the gossip columnist of the times, along with mentions of proper etiquette of a lady. Recipes for curing common ills were oftentimes hilarious, and I giggled with glee awaiting those moments of insight. This is a wonderfully creative story! Well done to the author and I look forward to the next book! (By the way I found myself so interested in stage acting during the 1600s. I blame Priya Parmar for the hours I've spent on my Mac having the most fun researching this topic...)

    If you like historical fiction, go get this one. You won't be disappointed. You'll enjoy each endearing page as the story unfolds.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A beautiful book to hold in your hands!

    In Exit the Actress, Priya Parmar weeps the reader back to 17th Century London and the life of a poor young woman named Ellen "Nell" Gwynn who must sell oysters and oranges to London's theatre patrons in order to scrape out a living. Nell struggles to support herself rather than falling into the same traps as her alcoholic mother and sister who work as prostitutes.

    At the theatre, she falls in love with a seasoned actor by the name of Charles Hart, but their relationship fails when she realizes she does not love him.

    Gradually, as Nell's career progresses onto the stage as a talented actress, Nell catches the eye of King Charles II, a man 20 years her senior. It is a true love match from the very beginning. In time, Nell bears the king a son.
    If there is one word to describe this biographical fiction novel, it is the word, creative. The book itself is a work of art. The book is written in diary format, decorated with bits and pieces of fancy stationary, easy to read diary entries, flourishes, newspaper articles of the time, theatre brochures, personal letters between members of the royal family, and delightful recipes for cures from The Lady's Household Companion. It truly is a feast for the eyes as well as the intellect. This heightens the historic feel and credibility of the novel. There is a great deal of historic detail cleverly weaved together to form the story. Nell is a fascinating character, courageous and forthright, who overcame poverty and rose to the loftiest of heights. A rags to riches story not to be missed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2013

    I read this book because a historical fiction group here on good

    I read this book because a historical fiction group here on goodreads was reading it. I had planned to participate in their book reading, but I had so many other things going on, I was actually unable to do so. I am glad to say that I persevered and finally finished it. And all I can say is that I am glad I did!




    I can't recommend this book highly enough. When I was "forced" to set this book aside for other endeavors, I actually resented it! I wanted to read this book and find out what happened to Nell (she's the main character). This is my kind of book in the extreme. It is historical fiction at its height. The author has researched everything very well, and almost every person in the book is a literal, historical character. Many of the events actually occurred--even some of the more bizarre ones. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it when historical fiction authors research their topics in great detail, and Priya Parmar certainly did her homework.




    I think the author had a stroke of genius when she chose to use Nell's own voice to tell this thoroughly entertaining story. I have to say that there was never a dull moment in this book. And I learned so much about history. I verified a lot of it with my history expert in England (my best friend). 




    Indeed, this book had it all--romance, heartache, history, villains, intrigue, humor--and no bad language or intimate sex scenes! Yes! If you haven't read it, go out and get a copy today!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    Nadia

    Simply fantastic!

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  • Posted March 19, 2011

    beautifully told story!

    i really enjoyed learning about ellen gwyn and her life. she seemed to be an unusual woman of her time, and really of any time - fiercely independent, seeking after her own heart, not only in love but in her passion for her work. i find that unusual in most women (and men!) and i was overjoyed to read her story. she was inspiring. i also had to keep remembering how young she was! i realize her age was normal for the time, but it still continued to baffle me throughout the read. i thought the characters were all very vivid. i especially liked johnny rochester, in all his drama, and i could really imagine the face of castlemaine and other unsavory characters.

    priya's writing is beautiful, and she particularly conveys moments of passion and desire with such eloquence and beauty. she says so much with such few words, which is usually how love is. i was so pleased to discover this! i find that most times, writers i am a fan of disappoint in this department. in this way, her writing reminds me of charlotte bronte, and priya's ability to tell the love story between nell and the king was particularly strong.

    as i dove right into the book before reading anything about it (including the author comments in the back), and i was curious why she chose to use a diary style. the book to me felt like a play. i kept wanting it to BE a play, since the diary writing contained so many back-and-forth bits of dialogue and often felt as if you were in the moment (a credit to the author!). but then i thought, the story of an actress in play format?? that is either too corny or just perfect, and i decided it would be too corny! still, the diary format was hard for me at first, not being one who would normally read a book in such a form, and at times the design throughout the book, although beautiful, distracted me. i did get used to it and grow to like it, since i found it particularly charming to think of the author reading actual playbills and documents and then creating her own.

    this book has got me interested in historical fiction! i have read a few novels based in a historical time, but nothing as specific as this (two people's relationship taken from history). i will look forward to her next book and entertain the thought of reading other historical fiction as well!

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    Posted April 3, 2011

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    Posted February 5, 2011

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    Posted February 20, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2011

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