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The Book of Air and Shadows Paperback – 1 Aug 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (1 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007251904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007251902
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 335,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"Author Michael Gruber and his publisher have to be thrilled by the comparisons being drawn between 'The Book of Air and Shadows' and 'The Da Vinci Code,' but . . the real treasure for the readers is the players themselves. . . Shakespeare might have called them 'poor players who strut and fret their hour upon the stage,' but as they leave the stage at the end of this exhilarating run, you hope you hear from them – and Gruber – again soon.
New York Daily News.

'Bookshelves across the country are cracking under the weight of thrillers… But few will surpass The Book of Air and Shadows when it comes to energetic writing, compellingly flawed characters, literary scholarship, mathematical conundrums and that oh-so-necessary dose of comic relief…
(We never had this much fun reading The Da Vinci Code.) Gruber…has raised the stakes in the thriller genre.'
USA Today

"If all the world's a play, and we are merely players, where do we get our scripts? That's the underlying question in Michael Gruber's smart new thriller, 'The Book of Air and Shadows.' . . . If 'The Book of Air and Shadows,' a contemporary Elizabethan reference to the missing play, sounds overly refined, think again. Gruber's themes may be lofty, but his people – notably his narrators – are fully fleshed and often funny, with arch senses of humour and irony. . . Only rarely does pop culture, from any century, fail these players. When it does, even that is telling. . . Because ultimately even the wily misfits of 'The Book of Air and Shadows' realize we are all simply unaccommodated man, the thing itself, looking for the right words to make sense out of our worlds."
Boston Globe.

About the Author

Michael Gruber has a Ph.D. in marine biology from the University of Miami. He lives in Seattle, Washington, and is currently at work on another novel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My wife brought this book home a few days ago as she loves Da Vinci style thrillers, I don't however. But I do enjoy good writing. I picked up "Air and Shadows" and started reading the first chapter, In spite of my self I was hooked! In less the 48 hours I had finished the book. The Plot involves Ciphered seventeenth century letters that lead to a race to find an undiscovered Shakespear play. The story could easily have turned into another run of the mill historical thriller full of stereotypical characters and genre scenes we have all seen too many times, but the author doesn't allow that to happen. The book is intelligent, without being preachy, and the twists and turns are believable and for the most part I did not see them coming. Real historical nuance is woven into the fiction to create an especially satisfying read. This book really should enjoy a wide audience and would make a great movie in the right hands.
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Format: Paperback
What a clever writer Michael Gruber is! I haven't read his other books but on the basis of this one will certainly search them out. It's a very accomplished thriller, gripping and different, told in three voices: the first-person narrative of Jake Mishkin, intellectual property lawyer, who lives a life of emotional and spiritual drift; the third-person narrative of Albert Crosetti, a naive and occasionally irritating(when he persists in constantly comparing movies to real life) novice screenwriter and bookshop assistant; and 17th century Protestant soldier and spy Richard Bracegirdle, whose deathbed letter to his wife provides the basis for the rediscovery of a lost Shakespeare play..
Gruber brings all these different voices off with aplomb, humour and tension. I was really impressed too with his command of 17th century English idiom and his understanding of the huge part religion played in those times, which is often not the case in modern novels, which all too often regard it as some kind of optional extra. And his understanding of Shakespeare is also very good. I only wish the Mary Queen of Scots play really did exist!
Gripping, tense, intellectually and emotionally stimulating, it's highly recommended.
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By J. Turner VINE VOICE on 22 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
didn't expect to enjoy this novel as much as I actually did! I'm not familiar with Gruber's work, but I have been reading a few 'conspiracy' thrillers lately. While not the best of the bunch, it's a pretty good second choice novel. I loved the way that the story is told by different characters and the voices really do resonate. The backstory was well written too, - if I have a criticism, it's that the novel was a tad too long and some of the Bracegirdle plot a tiny bit laboured. The novel should have been trimmed by fifty pages at least, but then, American authors do tend to describe everything minutely. I also guessed who was behind the plot, and the link between Carolyn and Miranda (miranda, I ask you!) was transparent, to say the least. It did not spoil my enjoyment though, even with the slower paced passages it was still a cracking read, though it's probably the sort of book I'd only read once. I'm not sure I'd read any other Gruber novels either but this one was well worth it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is my first experience with Mr. Gruber and his writing and based upon the time I spent with this book I will certainly search out his earlier work.

I learned about, "The Book of Air and Shadows", while driving and listening to a reviewer on NPR compare this book to one of the most successful books, in terms of sales, of the last several decades. I generally will not take such advice as it is tends to be hyperbolic at best or is based on some axe the person has to grind against the book in the comparison as much as the one to be recommended.

Mr. Gruber's writing does not need to be compared to anyone else's work. If you like historical thrillers/mysteries and appreciate a book that is not just another version of something you have read before this author will reward you.

If you like Shakespeare that's fine if you don't that's fine too as the book is well written moves briskly between a variety of characters and while it can certainly be called intelligent it is not a scholarly hunt for The Bard that will leave non-enthusiasts bored.

There are a couple of traits worth noting; the author tells his story through a variety of people in widely separate places in History and he does so with great skill. Every character has a distinct voice and none come off as caricatures, which a lesser author certainly would have manufactured. The author does force readers to proceed at his pace whenever the character of Bracegirdle is narrating. In a book that moves along with a crisp cadence this may bother some readers. Don't let it bother you it is well worth the few minutes of extra time.

Buy and read this work you will have no regrets.
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Format: Paperback
I very much enjoyed and admired this book. I hesitate to give it the full five stars, since there were one or two elements of the plot which left me scratching my head right at the end; it would be hard to describe them, however, without giving the whole thing away.

Some reviewers seem to judge from the subject matter that this is nothing more than yet another 'Da Vinci Code'-style thriller, dealing in long-hidden arcana which is sought by both goodies and baddies, hence leading to murderous double-dealing and chases across various picturesque bits of the world. Well, yes, there is that. But what makes this superior in my eyes is the quality of the writing and the knowing but skilful way in which Gruber fleshes out the bones of his clever plot.

If you prefer your higher-brow thrillers to be plot-driven, I don't think this will disappoint you. But if you also admire elegantly-crafted puzzles and an array of engaging characters I think you'll find them here, too. Gruber's narrative technique is self-consciously artful, paying overt tribute to Sterne in a way I find curiously affecting ('this account will be another "Tristram Shandy" if I'm not careful, never getting to the ****ing point'). The three-fold narrative pattern allows the tale to unfold at a tantalisingly variable pace; it did begin to grate on me eventually, at just about the time the two protagonists at last begin to draw together. This gave the opportunity to enjoy their reactions to one another. By this stage I was equally engaged by both the wry and hopelessly self-destructive Mishkin and the diffident, film-struck Crosetti. The characters might have been stereotypical - the feisty Irish mother, the saintly wronged wife - but in Gruber's supremely confident hands I found them pretty convincing.
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