Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1) by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a hard-to-categorise book: mostly it’s a romp through 17th Century Europe, mixing real historical characters with imagined ones, but weaving it all together rather seamlessly. It’s also incredibly long. I’m no stranger to reading epic books, but even I found that I hit a bit of a wall about 100 pages from the end, and started to run out of reading stamina. I did finish it though, and loved it.

Inevitably, with such a huge and sprawling book, I enjoyed some parts more than others. The early meetings of the Royal Society were hilarious, with their mixture of genuinely world-changing science and ridiculous tosh, all given the same serious consideration. It almost made me wish that I was involved in science back then for the sheer exhilaration of it. However, the dog vivisection scenes horrified and haunted me to the extent that I suspect I wouldn’t cut it as a 17th Century natural philosopher, even supposing that I had the requisite genius and tolerance for drinking mercury.

I liked Daniel Waterhouse, but absolutely loved the adventures of Jack and Eliza, rollicking across continental Europe. In fact, Eliza should have her own book.

View original review on Goodreads


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