Middler Books and More

This blog contains Bruce DuBoff's book reviews, info on other media, and related topics. It is a collaboration between the librarian and both the students of Pennsauken Intermediate School and Phifer Middle School in Pennsauken, NJ, and the general middler book reading community. The books featured here are appropriate for grades 5-8, though not all books reviewed here are appropriate for all of those ages.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Loving Will Shakespeare--by Carolyn Meyer (3 out of 4 stars)--
It is 1564 and a baby boy is born in a small English village. One of the community members present to pay her respects is an 8-year-old peasant, Anne Hathaway. Through an amazing turn of events, this bold young girl will grow up to marry that much younger genius, William Shakespeare. Their relationship is chronicled in this book, and if you like historical fiction, especially of the Elizabethan era, you will certainly appreciate and enjoy Loving Will Shakespeare, the latest historical offering from Carolyn Meyer, the author of Mary, Bloody Mary.

This novel chronicles Anne Hathaway's harsh childhood, leading up to the age of 26 when she marries Shakespeare. Since very little historical information is available about Hathaway, the author invents a life for her, complete with an evil stepmother and her equally evil stepsister, a best friend and confidante who hides a dangerous secret, and a series of minor affairs leading up to her somewhat hasty marriage to William Shakespeare. This invented life feels true because of Meyer's considerable historical knowledge. She has written about this period before, and her experience is evident. The local color and flavor she includes in this novel, particularly the rites and rituals surrounding holiday celebrations, are stunningly portrayed. I had never heard of the ritual of the pea and the bean, so I learned something new, and you will too.

My main problem with the novel is the misleading title. Although Shakespeare does pop in and out of the novel, it probably should have been called The Life and Loves of Anne Hathaway. Shakespeare is a very minor character and I wanted more from him; it was his name, after all, that attracted me to the book. However, I still enjoyed the novel, especially the parts in which Meyer describes the mores, values, and traditions of the working class Elizabethans.


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