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The Secret Life of William Shakespeare Paperback – 27 Sep 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; LARGE PRINT EDITION edition (27 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755358244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755358243
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 3 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 534,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'In this brilliant evocation of mid-16th century, full of atmosphere and detail, we follow not only the young man's journey but that of Anne's too... the lives of Kit Marlowe and Ben Johnson are expertly woven through Will's story and the author fleshes out his protagonists and their relationships so perfectly that the reader cannot help but become immersed in their joys and sorrows' (Choice Magazine)

'Happy to combine romance with academic investigation, Morgan places Shakespeare's relationship with his wife at the novel's heart... he introduces encounters that we understand will be later incorporated into his plays *****' (The Lady)

'This beautifully written novel convincingly recreates the Elizabethan world' (Press Association) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

For fans of David Mitchell and The Children's Book, or of the blockbusting biographies of great writers, or just anyone who loves books and wants an intelligent, utterly compelling, brilliant read, The Secret Life of William Shakespeare brings the past unforgettably to life

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I got introduced to Jude Morgan through the very wonderful The Taste of Sorrow and was swept up by his ability to write what I suppose must be called 'fictional biography'. In that earlier book, he had clearly steeped himself intensely in the writings of the Bronte Sisters, and also in the known biography of their family, and had produced an astonishingly beautifully written, creative piece, true to their literature and what we know of their lives, but rounded by the imagination of a superb narrative and empathetic imagination. I felt my understanding of the books and the lives had been enriched.

In that earlier book, we were dealing with a more nearly modern world, where facts can be checked, less than 200 years ago. This time, Morgan has freer range with creative imagination, as the facts of Shakespeare's life are far fewer, though the canon of work by which the man is also revealed, is much larger. And it seems to me that what Morgan has so clearly done is to say 'by their works, you shall know them', and has steeped himself in the work, to reveal an idea of Shakespeare the man. Which seems enormously right and proper.

For me, this was an utterly successful book. I have spent the past few days letting the reading settle, really wishing I could meet Shakespeare, but with a wry smile, as of course I can, by re-reading the works. Morgan, a beautiful writer, does well with these fictional biographies of other beautiful writers. Phrases from the plays and poems are scattered, very naturally, within the text.

He has even made an acute and creative leap to make a virtue out of the fact that we know very little of the man.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Books about Shakespeare vary hugely both in terms of approach and quality. Some focus on historical fact, while others play rather more loosely with the romance of his life. Fortunately for readers, Jude Morgan's books are rather more reliably excellent. What's more, he has a track record of fiction that concerns great writers, having previously tackled the Brontës ("The Taste of Sorrow") and the romantic poets ("Passion"). So my expectations were already quite high coming into his "The Secret Life of William Shakespeare" - expectations that he has again surpassed.

There are two aspects to the book that make it so good: the style and the content. Of these, the style is the one that may put some people off. It's certainly not a light read. If you want a breezy Elizabethan tale, then this may not be for you. It's unashamedly literary and not always an easy read, but as with watching a Shakespeare play, after a short while what seems at first impenetrable soon fades and the rich language and style becomes a strength. It's worth noting that he uses the present tense for much of the book too.

Morgan has an ability to suggest the style of his subjects in his writing. His "The Taste of Sorrow" strongly suggests the writing style of the Brontë sisters who are its subject matter. Without taking anything away from that book, it's rather more difficult to achieve this with Shakespeare, but again he manages to do that. This means that when there is dialogue between say Shakespeare and Ben Jonson or Anne Hathaway, it at least seems as if this comes from the same mouth that wrote the plays, while at the same time making it intelligible to modern readers. It's skillfully done and very rewarding if you are prepared to put in some effort.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Did William Shakespeare's knowledge derive from personal experience? Was he a courtier? Did he travel the world? Fight in wars? Where was he during the missing years? There are more questions than answers. Jude Morgan's lovely, resonant book may be only speculation but from first t o last page it convinces. Perhaps this is how it was. If not, no matter, read on and be enchanted.

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare is, of course, the story of a playwright, the man who may have been in London, mixing with Marlowe, Kyd, Dexter, Jonson and the rest. The man who may have needed to be in the London of the Chamberlain's Men, the Queen's Men, a player, learning his craft with Henslowe and Burbage and the rest. Was it there he met the Dark Lady of the Sonnets - and were those verses meant for the Earl of Southampton or for some French temptress?

All these are touched on, are essential threads in Morgan's book. But at it's heart this is the story of a marriage, a courtship, a pregnant bride, children, absences in pursuit of ambition, jealousy and temptation. In the telling, the author has found a voice that feels authentic without descent into mummery, making Cheapside as real in the mind's eye as Sheep Street. The language, in paragraph after paragraph, pins the image to the page. And the insight, the perception of what love is, underpins all.

If this suggests a reader carried away by a book, so be it. I doubt if I will read a better this year.
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Format: Paperback
Jude Morgan, who has acquired many plaudits for his accounts of Byron, Caroline Lamb, the Brontës and others, has daringly turned his hand to Shakespeare, a man whose very existence has been doubted by many. This book tells the story of Shakespeare's adult life, while he was still working in Stratford for his glovemaker father, and beginning with his meeting with Anne Hathaway. Despite his father's disapproval he is drawn to the performances staged by travelling players, conscious that there is something missing in his life, a need which proves to be only temporarily assuaged by his love for Anne. What starts as a minor rebellion becomes an open one and he leaves for London with a troupe of players. Life as an actor, even a competent one, is hard in a city where the theatres are frequently closed by plague, so he turns his hand to improving scripts and, eventually, to his own plays, but his writing is driven as much by the creative urge as by the need for survival.

You really need a spark of genius to put words into William Shakespeare's mouth, he had such facility with words, coining a new one when there was nothing that would immediately answer. Jude Morgan is very, very good, but there was a tiny lack, for me, of that spark of brilliance, and a recognition that all the best lines in the book actually come from Shakespeare's plays, but this is subtly handled and there's never any hint of pastiche. Morgan uses the neologising nicely, making it the subject of discussion between writers, producing some inspired examples. There are some well-wrought Shakespearean conceits, too.

The joy of this book was when the attention was turned to writing - to the creative drive, the pleasure of words, the turning of old stories into new.
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