How fare thee, sweet Bookworms?
Today we explore a book about books! A few weeks ago, one of my aunts left me a note on Facebook asking me if I’d read The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Love and Obsession
by Charlie Lovett. I said I hadn’t and asked if it was any good. My aunt responded with “I don’t know, YOU’RE the bookworm!” Apparently snarky eyebrows
aren’t the only familial trait… Full on sarcasm runs rather strongly as well. I decided to look and see if I could find this book on NetGalley, so I could mention this conversation on my blog and tell the world that my aunt is one sassy broad. As luck would have it, I was able to snag a copy. I am fortune’s fool… Or something. Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. This shan’t compromise my integrity in the slightest, as I am rather fond of looking gift horses in the mouth. I won’t hesitate to bite my thumb at it, should it come to that.
Are my Shakespearean references annoying you yet? Too bad! This book is about Peter Byerly, an antiquarian bookseller and collector. Peter is a shy young widower with an anxiety disorder. Since the untimely death of his beloved wife, he’s lost interest in his former passion for hunting down lost treasures in antique manuscripts. He has run away from his grief stricken home in North Carolina and settled in a cottage in the English countryside. While half-heartedly rummaging through a collection, Peter discovers a water color that is the spitting image of his late wife. The mystery? The painting is very clearly from the Victorian era… And Peter is in 1995. He is suitably confused, and embarks on a journey to uncover the origins of the painting. During the course of Peter’s research on the painting, he accidentally runs across a book that has the potential to prove that Shakespeare really wrote all of his own plays.
Oh yeah. Background information. There’s always been some rumors swirling about in literary circles that doubt that the works attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by William Shakespeare. Theories abound as to who the true author may be, or if the person of William Shakespeare existed at all. Though the works are clearly documented through dates, it’s awfully difficult to prove WHO actually wrote them. Most of the works were originally plays, Shakespeare the business man never spelled his name with an “e” at the end and only had a grammar school education, Francis Bacon may have wanted to use a pen name, blah blah blah. Conspiracy theorists only sound ridiculous when you’ve got solid proof to discredit their claims, and no such solid proof exists of Shakespeare being, well, Shakespeare. Except maybe, just maybe, this book that Peter has come across. Dun dun dun!!!
This book has elements of The DaVinci Code
and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore.
We’ve got a mystery of historical proportions that needs to be solved. The stakes are high. The mysteries run deep. People are trying to protect SECRETS. The story is constructed sort of like a braid. It’s got three distinct storylines going at the same time. We follow Peter’s life circa 1995 with the brooding and the grief and the mystery. We also explore the time line that shows Peter meeting his late wife Amanda in college and the blossoming of their love story (which is rather heartbreaking since you know from the beginning that she’s not long for this world.) The third piece of the puzzle is the story of a rather important book and how it ends up being passed down through the ages.
The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book’s story. Analogies in friendship bracelets. Astounding. (Image Source)
I refuse to be a spoilsport, because I rarely read mysteries and I rather enjoyed this one. The ending was a little too tidy for my taste (dare I say predictable?), but I’m willing to forgive Lovett on the grounds that I enjoyed the rest of the story. If you liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, I think this will be right up your alley. It’s not quite as whimsical as Penumbra, but it is every bit as engrossing. If you’re at all like me, Peter the super book nerd will steal your heart and you’ll want to hug him and give him tea… And Xanax.
Oh yes. I almost forgot to mention! I felt exceptionally close to this book because it talked about places I’ve been! Several times throughout the book Peter stops at the Russel Square tube station while in London. It’s close to the British Museum (where I’ve BEEN!!!) and it was our “home stop” while I did my two week mini-mester in London approximately 1,000 years ago. I was all, “Russel Square is my ‘hood!” Very exciting for me.
Oh my dear little peaches of Bookworms. We could talk about Shakespeare or mysteries or any number of things. But I must know. Am I the only person who gets unreasonably excited about reading stories with PLACES I KNOW?! When I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods I was practically giddy with all the Illinois small town name dropping. It makes me feel a part of it, you know? Is it just me? Don’t leave me hanging y’all. Share your stories. Or tell me I’m crazy. I most certainly am, though this is probably quite low on the list of my “eccentricities” shall we say? Spill!