The Bookman’s Tale

This novel is based on the age old question of the true authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. The story leaps back and forth between the present (1980s-1990s) and the past (1592 -1879,) as Peter Byerly in the former time battles with the loss of his dear wife of six years, Amanda. He leaves the U.S. to move to Kingham, a Cotswold village in England, to try to come to terms with his depression. While thumbing through old books in a local bookshop, Peter stumbles across a small watercolor picture with his Amanda’s exact likeness in an old volume on eighteenth century forgery. He sets out to discover who this person was and the connection between her and his former wife.

Along the way the reader finds himself in sixteenth century England, and is treated to imaginary discussions between Shakepeare and his cohorts. The provenance of a volume of prose romance, entitled Pandosto, published in 1588 by author Robert Greene, is called into question after Greene’s death in 1592. Shakespeare comes into possession of it at one point and was inspired to use the plot in A Winter’s Tale. The Pandosto eventually winds up in an English mansion in 1995, which raises the question — is it genuine or rather a very good forgery?

A multi-level tale of history, murder, intrigue, loss and romance, this is a must for bibliophiles! (I have to say it inspired me to print the list of Shakespeare’s plays, in an attempt to match the storyline dates with the dates of his plays, and found that many of the dates are disputed between scholars.)

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