Nell’s journey in the heart of theatre land continues…..
The theatre land in London now is of course not the bawdy, dirty maze of streets that it once was. But wandering around Drury lane, I closed my eyes and imagined the smells and sounds than Nell would have heard. If I opened this door, would I see her selling oranges, dreaming of the big time?
This is a real rags to riches tale and I enjoyed the fact that it had a very different feel to it from many of the other royal historical fictions I have read – it wasn’t all about power and survival. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book for me was the descriptions of the theatre world and of how it makes Nell feel:
“ I want to do that Nell thought. I want to make them love me like that.”
I found Gillian’s style very readable and enjoyable to read too. I loved the way she described the scenery, even remembering to include the smells as well as the sounds. I felt I got a really good feel for what London was like at this time and the struggle that people like Nell found life to be like. So much so that I thought I had to go to London to see Nell and her theatre land for myself. I also spent a lot of time to wander around the cobbled streets of Convent Garden to hear the traders and the crowds shout as they would have done back in the day:
- Covent Garden where Nell once thought of her mum ‘alone in the grey streets of Covent Garden, where the plague raged most fiercely’
A funny moment when Nell discovers where she should go to the toilet whilst on stage – in something called Oliver’s skull:
Kate indicated the chamber pot tucked behind a screen and Nell giggled in delight at the thought that Cromwell’s hated name had come to mean a lowly pisspot.
This book fully captured my imagination. I felt fully immersed in the times and felt as if I was standing right beside Nell. I warmed to her and wanted to be her friend. The story is essentially how she meets and falls in love with the king, but the real story is about Nell and her struggle and her spirit above all else.
Getting to know Nell has been an historical insight as well as a joy and I am keen to read more from Gillian Bagwell.