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by Neal Stephenson
Set against the backdrop of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Quicksilver tells the intertwining tales of three main characters as they traverse a landscape populated by mad alchemists, Barbary pirates, and bawdy courtiers, as well as historical figures including Ben Franklin, William of Orange, Louis XIV, and many others. The story ranges from the American colonies to the Tower of London to the glittering palace at Versailles, –and plays out during a singular nexus point in history, when rationality triumphed over mysticism, monarchy was overthrown, markets become free, and religious tolerance gained ground over harsh oppression.
There’s a lovely bit in Great Expectations, where Pip and Herbert go backstage to congratulate an acquaintance after his performance as Hamlet.