This is the longest book I think I’ve disliked nearly all of. And yet, I finished it. I like historical fiction. I like UK fiction. I like weird unreliable narrators (sometimes) but this was just not for me and at the same time I knew many other people had LOVED it so I slogged along figuring there might be some great payoff. And there wasn’t.
All the women worth a damn die, and there are precious few of them in the first place. I didn’t know enough history to know which of the characters were real (I mean other than Cromwell and John Locke and the King(s)) which is my own failing. Everyone was an asshole most of the time. Stuff was wrapped up in religion in a way I knew was important for the time but I didn’t care about. And the length of the book meant that some of the unreliable narrator stuff (which might have been okay if it was a Rashomon-length movie) got confusing by the end and felt like a memory exercise. I could figure out a few of the “Oh this is going to come up in the future” points, but many I just couldn’t remember after 500 pages.
Add to this that most of the characters are kind of actively noxious, either personally or just in how they treat people because of the class/status hierarchies of the time, and I just felt like I spent a long time with people whose company I didn’t enjoy. If this period of history is your jam, and you don’t necessarily expect any female characters, you might actually like this. For me I was just kind of curious about why I finished it.