Beautifully captivating and adventerous tale,
This review is from: The Fool's Girl (Hardcover)Despite Celia Rees being one of the few YA historical authors, I had not read any of her novels until this one even though I have 2 of them waiting to be read on my shelf so I was really looking forward to finding out what her writing was like.
I studied Twelfth Night last year at school and loved it, I've also been to see an open air staging of it so the premise of the book was very intriguing.
The book started off very well with the captivating setting of Illyria brought to life with colourful and 'flowery' descriptions and I loved the way that the story was told from the point of Viola's daughter Violetta. She spun a whole new world and identity for the second generation of the characters of Twelfth Night.
As the novel progressed into the world of Elizabethan London I soon realised Rees' unmistakable talent or transporting you to the past by building up your sense of being there with intricate details appealing to all your senses. The real test with historical description is how authentic it is and Rees definitely passes the test there as along with the descriptions of the bustling London streets and Shakespeares' playhouse, we are told about the gruesome lack of hygiene and the fate for the not so lucky.
Told through the viewpoint of Violetta, Feste, Maria, Shakespeare and the third person which means we get to know them and their thoughts towards others with a broader aspect which I found very interesting since I have rarely encountered this before. Although, this took quite a while to get used to and I think it could be one of the reasons that I found it hard to connect with the book.
Violetta, whose story the book follows is a feisty and determined heroine who is not afraid to stand up and fight for what she believes in and comes across as a fiercely loyal girl to her friends and companions as well as her home land which she feels very passionately about.
Feste is Violetta's faithful companion and serves her just as devotedly as he did her mother before her and is ready to risk his life to protect her. He brings the sound laughter to the pages with the tricks of his trade as a fool/clown and is also full of wise words.
Shakespeare was put across differently to in the novels that I have read where he was portrayed as being on the bawdy or gallant side as he seemed to be a fairly quiet, kind and sensible man who did care for and love his family here. This is possibly quite a realistic impression of him and I also liked the way that I could see ideas for Twelfth Night forming in his mind in the narrative.
There is also some romance mixed in too between Violetta and Stephano, the son of Lord Sebastian which began in childhood- how sweet! However there appeared to be little chemistry between the two of them, which made the relationship unrealistic. I would have liked there to have been more of a focus on this though as it seemed to be a bit neglected and rushed.
Despite enjoying this novel and its richly woven story and believable characters, for the first half I didn't feel fully 'into' the story. The last couple of pages were the best with dramatic tension built up very well and helped to change my opinion of the book. However I began to care more about the characters towards the end and I think I will connect with it more when I eventually read it again.
It does not matter whether you have read or are familiar with Twelfth Night before, Rees explains everything you need to know and I think that some readers will be encouraged to read the original play that inspired the book. For those who are studying Twelfth Night, The Fool's Girl would make an excellent and useful addition to curriculum work or research.
Verdict: Mixing together Shakespeare, Illyria, characters from Twelfth Night, mystery, myths and legends and Elizabethan London pulled off fantastically overall with Rees' exquisite writing. I would recommend it to anyone age 13+ but with the advice that it is a good idea to keep on reading is they are a bit confused at the start.