Quicksilver Summary

Quicksilver Summary

Quicksilver begins with fragments of the past in a succession of flashbacks that date all the way back to 17th century. The first is that of 1713 whereby Enoch Root finally reaches Boston to bring Princess Caroline's summons to Daniel Waterhouse in letter form.

The initial book deals with Daniel's time in Cambridge, covering events from the Great Fire of London to dealings with philosophers such as Leibniz. As the novel goes on Waterhouse becomes closely involved with the complexities of his contemporary politics.

The next section of the novel, The King of Vagabonds section, focuses on Jack Shaftoe: an English wanderer who has gone through a series of distasteful jobs. After establishing the character the novel progresses to 1683 during the Battle of Vienna and details Jack's relationship with a European slave called Eliza.

The two characters become extremely close and Eliza - through Jack's help - rises up the social ranks of Amsterdam after a sudden move. In an inversion of roles, Jack ends up as a slave after being stolen by Barbary pirates while Eliza becomes a figurative slave to the complex political society she has now found herself a part of.

The book then goes full circle and brings us back to Daniel Waterhouse and his position as courtier to Charles II. A fusion between the two previous stories then occurs in the meeting of Daniel and Eliza, and the latter attempts to flirt with the former in France. French politics becomes a major feature as the backdrop to these interactions. Daniel finds himself imprisoned within the Tower of London for treason and only escapes through appeal to Jack Shaftoes brother.

Finally, the book concludes on the brink of the Glorious Revolution and the rather peculiar progression of Daniel's bladder stones. The story acts as a powerful ode to 17th and 18th century, arguably the beginning of the enlightened, modern age.

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