Bernard Cornwell is pretty much at the pinnacle of my personal list of military history authors. His Sharpe, Starbuck Chronicles and Lost Kingdom series have been great sources of entertainment for me. This is a massive departure though and was possibly always going to happen given Cornwell's love of theatre and Shakespeare in particular.
Unlike some other recent examples of my favourite authors heading off on a tangent I genuinely enjoyed this. The viewpoint that Cornwell chooses is Richard who is William Shakespeare's younger, better looking but rather less fortunate brother. It's through his needy and almost desperate need to succeed as a player that Cornwell portrays the precarious nature of the life of a young player in Elizabethan England.
There is much detail about the theatre and its workings with the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream forming the core of the plot. Interwoven with this are a love story, a tale of rival actors including one Will Kemp and a plot of sabotage by a rival company to complete the drama.
So, I enjoyed it but I wouldn't give it absolutely top billing. The period has been very heavily covered and those who enjoy this style of book will likely not find too much that's new or better here. There's plenty of charm but it lacks a real x factor with a plot that's just a bit too mild mannered and predictable despite the odd snippet of violence. At times it felt slightly flat to me but it does gain momentum through the second half.
So, definitely a worthy effort but while he masterfully strides the battlefields of history Cornwell has a distance to go before he can claim to lord it over Elizabethan society.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful
Loved this from Cornwell. Such a brave shift from the conventional battlefield to the theatrical one! Such characters and characterisation from the narrator really give life to the world of the Elizabethan theatre. Absolute brilliance!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Should have read the synopsis, just saw the authors name, and purchase!
The author has created a story around the production of a Mid Summer Nights Dream, and the life of a group of thespians.
The plot was contrived , the characters were un engaging , as a consequence the story died a slow and painful death.
The reader had a very irritating inflection in his delivery, I can best describe as if each sentence was an enquiry.
Best thing I can say about this experience is I have learned a lesson.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A truly imaginative idea for a story (a tale from the perspective of William Shakespeare's brother Richard), masterfully fleshed out into a hugely entertaining plot, and written with such great craft.
Just as in his other books, Cornwell's own terrific imagination opens up our own as the listener gets immersed into the intrigue and spirit of Elizabethan London.
Central to the plot is the first performance of a Midsummer Night's Dream. (You may not be surprised that Fools and Mortals has inspired me to re-read this play, and I have only paused that to write this review.)
The restrained narrative performance by Thomas Judd brought all this to life in the perfect way for Richard Shakespeare. I also really enjoyed the 'voices' of the different characters, which were all really well done and individual in their own right. (Quite a skill!!!)
I bought this book purely because it was Cornwell however the description did not inspire me. Once I began to listen it was a different matter. I loved it! Good story with great characters. Well recommended.
Not his usual topic
But still an enjoyable listen
Would recommend if you like dramas in a historical setting