Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Queen's Physician by Edgar Maass

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Open Library Loan
Read: December 31, 2013

A story about the rise and fall of Count Johann Struensee and his love affair with Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark.

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Norah Lofts' The Lost Queen sparked my interest in Caroline Matilda, Queen consort of Christian VII, but the book itself was only mildly satisfying. A pleasant read, it left me wanting something more dynamic, something I could really sink my teeth into which is how I stumbled upon Edgar Maass' The Queen's Physician.

Centered on Johann and his political aspirations, Maass' work is decidedly heavy reading, but I personally think that a good thing. Chock full of bureaucratic intrigue, The Queen's Physician really delves into Struensee's visionary reforms and the enemies he made passing them into law. 

Maass' portrayal of Struensee was another highly appealing aspect of the book. I'll grant the author's interpretation isn't always easy to appreciate and/or admire, but his multifaceted characterization stood in stark contrast to the forgettably dull figure in Lofts' narrative. 

Regulated to supporting roles, the reader enjoys significantly less face time with Caroline Matilda and Christian VII. They aren't weak characters per say, but neither royal makes much of an impression, both paling in comparison to the physician and his revolutionary ideas. 

My only real criticism is Maass' tendency to subject his readers to tedious and wordy exposition. The first half of the novel has great movement and flow, but towards the end, particularly after Struensee's arrest, there is a noticeable shift in the author's tone. It is interesting material in its way, but I didn't feel Struensee's prolonged reflections and inner monologues essential to the larger story. 

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way was intrigue and cabal, a cat-like insinuation into the sources of power and status. Guile won them money and offices. Theirs was the soft approach, an approach that quick as lightning could turn into tigerish assault.
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