I got a free ARC copy of this book from the First to Read program by Penguin Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
This historical novel offers a new view of one of those lost years in the life of William Shakespeare, interwoven with the historical account of the prosecution of Catholicism during the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century. Katharine De L’Isle is a widow who goes to live with her family at Lufanwall Hall after her husband’s death. There, she spends her days helping to educate the children and being a spinster among the many women in the house. She lives a very normal and quiet life, enjoying reading books, until the priest of the house appears murdered. His death leads to the suspicions that maybe their home is being watched, provoking the autoexile of Sir Edward, the head of Lufanwall, for fear of being prosecuted and executed for his Catholic faith. At the same time, a new schoolmaster appears in the house: a poet and actor called William Shakespeare. His appearance will cause havoc in Katharine’s world and emotions. After becoming his tutor and editor somehow, Katharine will discover that Will is a very complex person, learning that actions and words can be deceitful.
This story, which mixes historical and fictitious characters, is well written, although it is confusing at the beginning and I never could fully understand how the many (MANY) people in the Hall were related to each other. I would suggest some kind of genealogical tree at the beginning of the book, perhaps? That would help. Really, it is very confusing. Also, some parts dealing with the writing of the poem ‘Venus and Adonis’ are a bit boring and I felt like skipping them. Apart from that, I really enjoyed this story of intrigue, love, deceit, and secrets, all of that surrounded by Shakespeare’s poetry and words. The plot is interesting and the characters are well developed.
This book shows some aspects of Shakespeare that aren’t the typical ones you read in your textbooks or any other reference book. We all know that Shakespeare wasn’t a saint, but this book can be a bit shocking for those people who are absolute and adoring fans of the playwright. I liked his relationship with Katharine, because thanks to that we see the development of that character. I truly enjoyed that a woman was, in this book, Shakespeare’s editor.
Highly recommended if you like historical novels with a high charge of history data. Also if you are a fan of William Shakespeare.