When you think of a hardback book about the secret life of William Shakespeare you first imagine that it’s going to be a historical book of factual proportions. However, in Judy Morgan’s The Secret Life of William Shakespeare what you’ll find is a novel of re-imagined proportions. Though it’s a work of fiction, it will inevitably have a lot of historical research to back it up, making it an interesting concept that could work really well.
It’s a book that will try to fill in the gaps between what we know about Shakespeare, what we think we know and what we will probably never be able to know for sure. Though it probably won’t tell you how regular he was or what he was like in the sack, it’ll probably give a good account of his movements (non-toilet related), relationships and accomplishments with a pinch of creative license thrown in.
Setting out to bring the history of William Shakespeare to life is a pretty big ambition for a novel. Taking the life of a man who went from glove-maker to one of the most prolific, celebrated and entertaining writers in the history of humanity and spinning it into a novel is surely a task of epic proportions, which is one of the reasons there is so much weight on the shoulders of Judy Morgan’s novel.
By all accounts she gets it just about right, stopping just shy of a masterpiece, with a hell of a lot to go on. The dialogue and narration is, as you’d expect, filled with thees and thous and n’uncles, reiterating the sheer effort Judy Morgan must have put into writing the book.
However, it’s not just Shakespeare that features as the novel attempts to provide a window back on the full breadth of Elizabethan theatre, including Ben Jonson, Anne Hathaway and Christopher Marlowe. Similar to the tome that is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, the Shakespearean equivalent is a wide reaching historical novel.
Published by Headline Publishing Group, The Secret Life of William Shakespeare was released on the 12th April 2012. The hardback edition had a RRP of £19.99, but prices are much lower from most good retailers. The paperback version was published on the 27th September 2013.