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Shakespeare's Mistress [Paperback]

Karen Harper
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

10 Nov 2011

England, 1601.

When Queen Elizabeth's men come looking for William Shakespeare - a rumoured Catholic in a time of Catholic-Protestant intrigue and insurrection - they first question a beautiful, dark-haired woman who seems to know the famous playwright very well. Too well.

She is Anne Whateley, born in Temple Grafton, a small town just up the river from Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. And as church records show - were anyone to look for them - Anne Whateley was wed to William Shakespeare in a small country church just days before he married another woman, Anne Hathaway, who has lived as his wife for decades.

In SHAKESPEARE'S MISTRESS, Anne Whateley - who may or may not be Will's true wife - tells her story. Stretching almost fifty years, from the rural villages of Warwickshire to the bustling city of London, with its teeming streets and lively theatres, it's a story of undying passion, for life, love, and literature.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction) (10 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091940427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091940423
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 280,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the most exquisite novels I have read in a very long time" (Michelle Moran)

"a highly readable book for anyone who enjoys Tudor history" (Daily Mail)

"So vivid and authentic - a totally satisfying recreation of one of the great Shakespeare mysteries. I couldn't put it down" (Rosalind Miles, author of I, Elizabeth and Guinevere)

"Harper...knows her period well, and it shows...often in sure handling of the details of politics, theatre, and daily life, including some harrowing passages featuring childbirth and the plague" (Booklist)

"The novels chief pleasures derive from the easy interaction of Shakespeare's work, the history of Elizabethan England and the life that the author imagines Shakespeare might have had" (Publishers Weekly)

Book Description

A delicious and intriguing historical novel about the woman who was William Shakespeare's secret wife...

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Uffffffffff.... 12 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Oh dear. I hate to write a bad review of a book but I really struggled to get to the end of this book. I'm going to do my best to be balanced. On the plus side the author has managed to string together a reasonable story. On the down side - where to begin? The author has clearly done some research but she seems to be so pleased with this newfound knowledge that she forces it into the mouths of her characters in a way that jars - particularly in reference to the plays - lines from which she uses in the mouth of the main character in such a clumsy way I nearly threw the book in the bin. The entire narrative arc is ridiculously pat - the meetings and events that occur throughout (I won't detail them - I don't want to spoil it for you if this is your cup of tea) are far fetched in the extreme. I won't go on any more - in my opinion this is utterly awful writing - if you enjoy historical fiction / romance I would point you to Anya Seaton or even Jean Plaidy rather than this tripe. Sorry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I was glad to get to the end of this one 21 May 2012
By Constant Reader TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Never mind "Romeo and the Pirate's Daughter" - this is "Will Shakespeare and the Italian tightrope dancer's daughter" - the story of Will and Ann (not Hathaway) his exotic dark lady.

Febrile nonsense - Will and Ann as kids making up rhyming couplets as they swing about the country on his big horse. Will as hero rescuing Ann from attempted rape. "My hero" she thinks. "I can't take much more of this" I think.

Ann, a modern woman in a "Tudor" world, moves easily between the classes, throwing on boy's clothing and encouraging her tussie-mussie selling mates to do so as well so they can pop over to Southwark and flog a few cushions to Henshawe, rub shoulders with Kit Marlowe and then another day live it up with the Earl of Southampton, completely at ease in his milieu.

Show - don't tell - "I am related through my mother to the Ardens who own a big park, seventeen miles away". "This was just like the situation in that play what Will wrote last year - "Much Ado" I think it was called".

Awful writing, unconvincing plot which basically shoves Ann as the unseen hand into every event we know of in Shakespeare's adult life, unengaging protagonists. Give it a miss.

If you want a good book about William Shakespeare, Will Will is at least well written
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This was hard going 24 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have had this novel waiting to be read and reviewed for the Vine programme for a long time now. A few times, I have picked it up, began reading it, only to then put it to one side again. This, for me, is quite rare. Once I finish a book, I take some time to choose the next one I am going to fall into, and that choice will depend on what I have read before, what I am in the mood for. But, with SHAKESPEARE'S MISTRESS, I found myself finding it difficult to commit.
Researching a novel, especially a historical one is essential, but there is a fine line between good research and flat writing. I personally feel that SHAKESPEARE'S MISTRESS came across a little flat for me. As another reviewer has said, the quotes from Shakespeare's works seem a little strained here, rather than flowing naturally. Ultimately, the plot was not convincing enough, for me, to keep me reading to the end.
Unfortunately, this is not a book I would recommend.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me 22 Dec 2011
By Simon Tavener VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Being a fan of all things Shakespearean, I thought this might be a diverting read with an interesting new twist on the story of his life.

Whilst it is a potentially interesting premise (that the dark lady of the sonnets was really Shakespeare's first love - the woman he married just before he married Miss Hathaway), the quality of the writing does not deliver for me. There is a very clear attempt to use the narrative voice to create a sense of period - and it does not really capture the essence of the language of the time. It all feels slightly contrived and arch.

This is further exacerbated with the dropping in of phrases from the Complete Works - this really jarred with me and made it hard to take the writing seriously.

If you don't take it too seriously, I guess this could be a diverting piece of fluff. If you have any interest in Shakespeare, his life and works, I suspect you really will find it just a bit too lightweight. I know it is not a piece of scholarly writing but the prose does not carry enough weight to do justice to what had the potential to be an interesting piece of speculative history.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a let down... 12 July 2012
By Nicola F (Nic) TOP 500 REVIEWER
I had such high hopes for this novel. It's a book that I've really wanted to read given that I am interested in both Shakespeare and Elizabethan times. That's why it pains me to say that to be honest, it was a bit of a let down and a story that I struggled to finish.

I do commend the author for writing this novel and weaving a believable scenario out of something that has long been pure speculation: the notion that prior to his marriage to Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare married another Anne-Anne Whatley and the two of them had a long standing relationship until his death. This novel is told from Anne Whatley's viewpoint, her supposed `memoirs' of her time with William Shakespeare and how she was ultimately his muse and the real love of his life during his writing career.

The story has its high points admittedly: I found myself really enjoying certain aspects of the narrative including the evocative descriptions of both London and Stratford of the time- sights, sounds and smells become ingrained in the mind of the reader. I also found the depictions of the theatres and the theatre lifestyle itself fascinating. However, themes I would have liked to have read a lot more of seemed a bit `glossed over' in comparison. The Black Death for example, a key time in Elizabethan history and something that had a disastrous impact on London and its citizens surely warranted more than a mere couple of chapters? Similarly, the fire in The Globe deserved more than being stuffed in the end of a chapter.

The low points however overrode this story more than what they should have done for me; I found the characters a bit wishy-washy and to be honest, Shakespeare is portrayed to be a very weak man and I didn't like him or Anne very much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare's Mistress. My personal review
This book was a very good read. It was well-balanced with fact and fiction and the characters were well drawn. I enjoyed it enormously.
Published 2 months ago by Monica Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever!
Anyone who looks into William Shakespeare's life can learn that there is indeed a record of an Anne Whatley marrying William Shakespeare shortly before his marriage to Anne... Read more
Published 4 months ago by GlosterLass
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a gift
This was bought as a gift for a friend of mine, therefore I cannot give a reveiw of this book
Published 6 months ago by tinywarbo
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy
Evoking the times and suggesting the life and mysteries of Shakespeare this engaging explanation of the Dark Lady is totally believable, I shall never think of 'the second best... Read more
Published 14 months ago by jennifer waluga
3.0 out of 5 stars Well...
Not sure what I can add to the other reviews on the page now. Just the sort of thing for the kinds of people who like this sort of thing. Which isn't necessarily me.
Published 15 months ago by Stuart Burns
3.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of A Trillian Books
Shakespeare's Mistress is a take on a somewhat unknown piece of history. While Shakespeare himself is known to all, there isn't a lot of set in stone facts, which basically gives... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tasha
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare's Mistress
A very enjoyable read and although a novel, the writer has done her research well and I learnt quite a bit that I did not know about Shakespeare.
Published 15 months ago by beaumont
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting fiction
This novel presents one depiction of a possible history but for me the characters did not come to life. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Polly
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant take on Shakespeare
I loved this book- historically gripping for me. Right up my street
A brilliant look at the world of Shakespeare from a personal
Published 17 months ago by karenwilks
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting approach to Shakespeare's secret years
"When Queen Elizabeth's men come looking for William Shakespeare - a rumoured Catholic in a time of Catholic-Protestant intrigue and insurrection - they first question a beautiful,... Read more
Published 17 months ago by lilysmum
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