“His majesty acted as if he were cringing ingratiatingly, almost cowering. The members of the court showed no deference toward the monarch, but instead ignored him or retreated with a laugh whenever he approached, as if they wished to avoid his embarrassing presence.”
The Royal Physician’s Visit was my Denmark selection for the 52 Books Around the World Challenge. Set in the latter half of the 1700’s, this work of historical fiction depicts a power struggle within a tenuous monarchy. The King is not in his right mind. The royal physician is Johann Friedrich Struensee, a German doctor, brought in to help King Christian. Enquist portrays Struensee as a sympathetic character. He cares about the King and genuinely tries to help him. Yet, he understands that having the King’s trust enables him to orchestrate great political changes within Denmark. A student of the Enlightenment, Struensee attempts to create a quiet revolution with the country, step by step changing it’s rigid and enslaving laws. Of course, anyone who wields power creates enemies and the good doctor has plenty of those. Unfortunately, he gives them just the opportunity to bring Struensee to his knees.
I didn’t know much about Danish history prior to reading this book. I found the story fascinating, but wondered about the translation. My copy was translated from Swedish, and I felt it could have been better. Perhaps I’m spoiled with authors such as Sharon Kay Penman and Edward Rutherfurd, I’m afraid I set the bar pretty high when it comes to historical fiction. At any rate, I do recommend it. It’s still a good book.
3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1999