Friday, October 04, 2013

Loving Will Shakespeare (2006)

Loving Will Shakespeare. Carolyn Meyer. 2006. Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

Loving Will Shakespeare was the very first Carolyn Meyer novel I ever read. It was LOVE. Loving Will Shakespeare was also one of the very first novels I ever reviewed here at Becky's Book Reviews. (To be precise, it was my SECOND review.) So I have wonderful memories of this one. I recently decided to reread it. 

Loving Will Shakespeare is the fictional memoir of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. After a brief framework is provided, the novel opens with the christening of William Shakespeare. Agnes Hathaway is in attendance. (I believe she is seven?) The age difference between these two is obvious from the start. The obstacle for the author to overcome is how to create a romance between the two in a believable way when the time comes.

Why did I love Loving Will Shakespeare? I think one of the main reasons is that it was so incredibly rich in detail. I really got a sense of what it was like to live during this time. Through Agnes (or Anne) readers get a chance to see this world up close. The lambing, the sheep-shearing, the sowing and reaping, the holidays and festivals, Twelfth Night and May Day. There is a great sense of community. Also the uncertainty of life. The health risks of living during this time in history. The recurrence of the plague that proves devastating or heartbreaking. The risks every single woman faces with each pregnancy and childbirth. The need for remarriage, the blending of families, etc. 

The other reason may be the presence of Will Shakespeare himself. Though this is a mixed blessing. Will is presented as having a way with words, a true gift, a BIG dream. He doesn't quite fit in his setting. He wants more. He can be charming and work hard. It's not that he's dreaming so big that he's lazy. Readers see him in cozy friendship with Agnes for many years. What he is thinking of this older woman readers can't quite be sure of. But from her point of view, this friendly young man is good fun but not a potential mate. She isn't wow this fourteen year old boy is oh-so-dreamy.

Will Shakespeare is not Anne's first love-interest. She has been disappointed in the past in her crushes and suitors. One man she truly loved--the two were even engaged--but he died of the plague. The wooing between the two [Will and Anne] occur when he's seventeen or so. He's started writing poems--sonnets--and songs. And he's a great dancer. He is persistent and she's willing.

But if this love story has a romantic ending, it's definitely bittersweet. For after just a few years of marriage...Will Shakespeare leaves his wife and three children to go to London to make himself into SHAKESPEARE. He becomes famous and successful. And his family is largely not a part of his life in any meaningful way. Anne is not a nagging wife; one to beg her husband to stay. She lets him go with grace and courage believing that he will do great things.

If music be the food of love, play on...
To be or not to be...

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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