|The Shakespeare Secret, Jennifer Carrel|
I came across this book by complete chance, as it was sitting on the shelf of the villa I was staying at in the Summer with my family. After studying a Shakespeare module in my final year and LOVING it, it really caught my eye as it claimed to combine Shakespearean type themes with a modern day thriller story.
However, before I had read it, I googled some of the reviews and the book wasn’t exactly raved about which made me a little bit skeptical about giving it a go (it’s not the shortest of books!).
But I am soooo glad I didn’t let the negative reviews put me off – although there are some parts of the plot that are a little bit implausible (I mean travelling through an airport with a forged passport of the opposite sex isn’t something I see happening too easily), if that kind of implausibility doesn’t bother you, it’s a really gripping and interesting read.
The level of detail Jennifer Carrel includes about the history of Shakespeare and the research that surrounds him is nothing less than incredible. The book is literally oozing with passion for the subject and one of the things I loved best about it is that her love for her research really comes through in her writing. It has to be said that at times the level of historical detail she includes mean that it’s not always a straightforward read and I definitely had to check back a few times to make sure I had a grip of who was who and what their role in the plot was – but for me that wasn’t a major problem as I had an interest in the detail I was reading back to clarify and so it didn’t feel like a chore.
I also really really loved the structure of the book – it is split into five acts which mirrors the structure of Shakespeare’s plays, and in between each act is an interlude which flashes back to the time when Shakespeare was alive. I thought this was a really nice touch to add to the way in which her novel shows an appreciation of the playwright and his work.
It has to be said that I don’t disagree with many of the criticisms that were common in the reviews. There certainly are bits of the plot that are unbelievable and far fetched, and Carrel does not spend much of her time developing the main characters or their relationships. However your opinion of this book, will depend on how much those kinds of things will bother you. For me, my love of this book came from a fascination of how Carrel has incorporated such an impressive amount of knowledge about Shakespeare into a modern day story that is engaging and really well constructed. I think being a bit of a nerd about Shakespeare is what made the difference between really loving this and finding it a bit too much hard work.
I would definitely recommend this book, but definitely only to someone who has an interest in Shakespeare and his history in the first place, other wise it could definitely be slightly overwhelming!
To finish, I will leave you with one of my favourite ever Shakespeare quotes about, taken from A Winter’s Tale…
“…and to be plain
I think there is not half a kiss to choose
Who loves another best”
Happy Reading, Autumn is the besssssst month to do it!