A guest review from Stephen Shieber
The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
by Jude Morgan
It's always difficult to come fresh to a book about such a famous character. We bring our preconceptions to it and have to try to move beyond them to accept the writer's portrayal of their character. Jude Morgan makes this easy for us. Her characterisation gets to the heart of the great man's inner life, while holding us at the distance we'd expect in someone who spends the majority of their life make-believing.
This is a rich, dense book. Morgan's language is poetic and measured, evoking the age without attempting a slavish reproduction of it. Her Shakespeare does have a secret life, but so does every one of the characters who take a turn in the narration: John Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway and Ben Jonson. The story switches easily between Stratford and London, yet Morgan makes it clear that Shakespeare is never truly at home in either. His home is in his words and, ultimately, they speak for him.
This is a book that probably holds few surprises for those who know something of Shakespeare's life, but it is a book that will haunt you with images long after you have turned over the last page. This is historical fiction at its very best, able to enunciate the unchanging constants of the human condition, just as the playwright himself did in his plays.
Many thanks to Stephen for this review.
Thanks to the publishers for the review copy of this book.