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Exit the Actress    by Priya Parmar Amazon.com order for
Exit the Actress
by Priya Parmar
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Historical fiction lovers have a new author to watch out for: Priya Parmar. Her debut novel, Exit the Actress, shows remarkable prowess in bringing history to life through lively, sympathetic characters and in a format that makes reading a breeze.

With her father dead and her mother a drunk, young Ellen Gwyn is used to working to survive. However, she refuses to travel the path her older sister, Rose, found herself on. Instead of a prostitute, Ellen becomes an Orange Girl at the new Theatre Royal, playhouse of the King's Men. Soon Ellen has befriended the actors and is surprised when she is pulled from the pit to fill in for a sick dancer.

Seeing the seeds of talent, the company nourishes her acting ability, eventually making her a top comedic actress. With the stage name of Nell, Ellen finds a life for herself that she could never imagine, filled with independence and notable suitors though none as high as King Charles II, every woman's dream.

The famous Nell Gwyn and her illustrious (some infamous) contemporaries come to vibrant life through fictional diary entries, letters, and other documents. Parmar provides a lot of history throughout Exit the Actress without ever resorting to long, detailed exposition. This helps the story move at an exciting clip, even though the reader already knows what will happen in the end - which shows true mastery of the genre.

Exit the Actress is so well-crafted, it is hard to believe it is a debut novel. Priya Parmar has a lot to live up to whatever her next effort may be, but if this work is any indication, she will do it beautifully.

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