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Penniless, newly-wed and new father Will Shakespeare gets involved with elves in the Forest of Arden round Stratford, to his family’s mortal peril but eventual survival. The author clearly extremely knowledgeable about Shakespeare’s life and times (there is an afterword referencing the particular eight biographies she turns to repeatedly, and listing a number of other reference works). She clearly had enormous fun constructing characters, plot and dialogue from which Shakespeare could afterwards have constructed his plays. This reader, alas, had a lot less fun.

This is an odd book. Brian tells me that although most people don’t like it, the people who do like it like it a lot. I suspect if I had read it earlier in my life I might have liked it quite a lot, as its mix of literary tricksiness with high-flown language might have appealed. At this stage of my life, however, already half a literary critic, I found myself stopping at intervals to shout at the writer: the characters are cardboard; pacing is decidedly peculiar; extensive quotes from the plays are used to construct some truly odd and some absolutely ghastly passages of description and dialogue; and after much leisurely musing about emotions and not a lot of action, the book finally hurries from near-disaster to the happy-ever-after ending in about 2 pages flat.

I am tempted to illustrate my problems with the book by quoting the characteristic passage that starts on page 145 (of the 2002 Ace paperback): Will is “pushed against a wall” by his mother, the action stops while a whole badly placed paragraph muses on his mother’s hair “that surrounded her face like a hedge of thorns” and doughy face, before resuming again as he “slammed into the wall with full force”. But I will spare you. On balance this is one to avoid.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
23rd Oct, 2009 20:34 (UTC)
You read these so that we don't have to...
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Caroline M

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