I found this slim novel in one of those small independent bookstores that have
really good selection. I’ll confess right up front that I bought it because
of the quirky title and the cover, which shows the typical Shakespeare woodcut
with make-up doodled on it. It made me laugh. Having studied quite a bit of Shakespeare, I'm always up for a bit of comedy about him.
Then I read the first chapter, which was only a few pages (Anne Hathaway, as
narrator, tells stories much more concisely than her husband ever did—she
claims he was always too charmed by the fancy of words to get to the point).
I was caught immediately by the engaging, energetic voice jumping off the page
at me, telling me how “Mr. Shakespeare” was addicted to sugar. And
I couldn’t stop reading
You would think it would get terribly annoying to read an entire book typeset
in italics (and even with my level of engagement, the underlinings for emphasis
did get on my nerves), but I couldn’t stop reading. The chapters were so
short—most of them were one to four pages long—and Anne Hathaway’s
story was so immediate (amazingly so for a five hundred year old story), that
I was done with this book in no time flat.
Reading this book feels like reading one of those tabloid “tell-all”
stories about some celebrity—you get to hear all the dirt on Shakespeare,
like that his daughter Judith refused to learn to read or write because she
didn’t want to be like her father. Like a tabloid, it can get quite randy
at parts. And like a tabloid, it’s of course most likely not true—although
most of the details are based on historical fact, the truth is that there aren’t
enough of those in Shakespeare’s case to go around, and most of the literary
theories aren’t remotely provable.
So, as long as you take the story with more than a few grains of salt, this
is a truly enjoyable book. Besides, there’s something so literary
in reading a novel about Shakespeare’s life—you don’t have to
tell anyone how much fun it was to read if you don’t want to. I haven’t
enjoyed a guess at Shakespeare’s life this much since the movie Shakespeare