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400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still and will always be regarded as the greatest writer and dramatist in English language. However, controversy has always surrounded his religion, sexuality and the authorship of some of his well known plays. The presence of a dark muse, who features prominently in his sonnets, also shades the legend of Shakespeare.
From this controversy stems this exceptional piece of historical fiction by Mary Sharratt. The protagonist in this beautifully crafted novel is Aemelia Lanier, noted poet and a contemporary of the Bard of Avon. The daughter of an accomplished court musician, Amelia, with her dark looks, deft musical accomplishments and free spirit, enjoys freedom, which very few women enjoyed during that era. Her bouyancy brings a fair share of heartbreak, disillusionment and despair, but what prevails is the strength and perseverance of her spirit. Rather than being overshadowed by the brilliance of her collaborator, Aemelia, goes on to publish her own poems Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, in defence of women all over.
While no real evidence has been found linking Shakespeare and Aemelia, Sharratt takes the liberty to fictionalise this romantic tragedy. The spotlight stays on Aemelia throughout the novel, giving prominence to this great poet. The research is impeccable and the story flows smoothly. Aemelia’s predicament and anguish seeps out of the pages, making the reader sympathise with her. The Elizabethan era is portrayed in it’s entirety, with references to prominent figures and events that marked the period. The novel brings the Rennaisance period to life. I wonder why I had not heard about Mary Sharratt. This is the first Mary Sharratt book that I have read and it’s definitely not going to be the last.
Historical fiction at it’s best!!!!
…..The poet lingered in her mind. His look of utter heartbreak, how he’d reeled away when she had touched his tears. His verses had formed such an intricate counterpoint to her music, as though his art seamlessly interlocked with hers. Fancy the chance of them meeting twice on the same day —what if this was preordained in their very stars? Slowly an idea began to form inside her head. Might not the pair of them prove more formidable together than either of them on their own —his poetry combined with her education and courtly connections? Might they even become collaborators of sorts?…….”We shall write comedies, you and I. It would be scandalous for me to write under my own name, so we shall do it under yours. And evenly divide the profits.” “How shall one as lowly as I attract Her Majesty’s attention?” The scepticism fairly shot from his tongue. “Why, Southampton himself told you of my . . . my association with the Lord Chamberlain. I still have his ear. I shall persuade him to form a new theater company —the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.” She could not resist smiling in triumph…………