The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan

secret life of william shakespeare‘…And all the men and women merely players’

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

If you’re going to write a book about one of the greatest writers of all time, then you need your own writing skill to be able to stand the inevitable comparisons. Jude Morgan’s does. This is a beautifully written novel, each word carefully crafted to draw the reader in to a world full of poetry and drama.

The King's Men (
The King’s Men

Morgan fills the gaps in our knowledge about Shakespeare’s life by creating a character who is completely convincing and compelling – a man who questions his own existence except as he lives through his work. Morgan broadens out the tale to allow us to meet some of the other greats of Elizabethan drama, – Marlowe, Jonson etc – painting a picture of how the competition amongst these men drove each to strive for ever greater heights. We are shown how patronage and the Court influenced the dramatists and poets of the day, but we also see the other side of London – the constant fear of plague resulting in regular closure of the theatres, the uncertainty and often poverty of the players’ lives, the need to please both masters and audience. All this gives a real insight into the development of Shakespeare’s writing, but the author wears his research lightly and weaves his knowledge seamlessly into the story.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage (wikipedia)
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

But much though I loved the story of Shakespeare and his London life, for me the standout feature of the book was the character of Anne – her love for Will, her fear of losing him, her strength to let him follow his driven path despite the cost to herself. Through her we see the contrasting life of small town Stratford, still very rural, where everyone knows their neighbours and family is everything. We see Anne grow and develop as she tries to reconcile her pride in Will’s accomplishments with her sense of abandonment. She has to provide the strength that can make their relationship survive his absence, that gives him the freedom to be something she never fully understands. Will says ‘You made Will Shakespeare, Anne. And without you there wouldn’t be a life, but the unformed shape of one, never to be.’ And such is Jude Morgan’s skill that this reader believed this completely.

Anne and Will (
Anne and Will

A wonderful book that will appeal not only to Shakespeare fans but also to anyone who appreciates a superbly crafted tale filled with poetry, humanity and tenderness. Highly recommended.

I was originally inspired to read this by this review from one of my favourite Amazon, and now bloggy, reviewers, Lady Fancifull.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link