Top positive review
Detail as fine as the tiny brushstrokes in a classic painting
Reviewed in Australia on 28 February 2021
I loved her previous novel “Instructions For A Heatwave”, and her finely brushstroked detail and her structured backfilling of the narrative so the big picture fills itself in are highlights of both books.
Here her central premise is that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet as a way of not only bringing his dead son back to life but of granting him immortality.
She benefits from the little we know about Shakespeare’s early life which is equally matched by our desire to know more. Truth abhors a vacuum so I know that in ten years time my thoughts and imagined knowledge of Shakespeare’s life will be heavily tinted by this novel. The fiction will have smudged into some sort of virtual truth.
That’s a big responsibility for a novelist to take on, gumption almost, and although she painted intricately detailed and impressively researched pictures of life in those times that deserve to be believed, I’m always slightly uncomfortable that personal relationships between historic characters, in this case Shakespeare and his father, his wife, and his children, which are impossible to understand truthfully, are presented equally as credibly.
Fiction is its own excuse I understand, but I like (or hope) to think an author is fully conscious of the power of this paradoxical invention-of-truth role she or he takes on.