Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper
"Dark haired and strong-willed, Elizabethan beauty Anne Whately takes up her pen to divulge the intimate details of her daring life and her great love, William Shakespeare. As historical records show, Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton was betrothed to Will just days before he was forced to wed the pregnant Anne Hathaway of Shottery. Their secret wedding in a country church brings together two passionate souls whose union survives separation, betrayal, and the barbs of small-town gossips." (from the publisher)
Historical documents indicate that "Anne Hathway (sic) of Stratford wed William Shagspere (sic)..." However, there is a curious entry one day earlier in the official marriage records of one "Anne Whateley and William Shaxpere (sic)." Was this merely a clerical error (spelling was not standardized), or were there two completely different women in Shakespeare's life?
Mistress Shakespeare is a fictional account of Anne Whately, Shakespeare's "wife not of his hearth but of his heart."
Karen Harper creates a story of the woman behind many of Shakespeare's works, his true love and muse, who remained a well-kept secret after William married a pregnant Anne Hathaway.
Anne's Whateley's story of her childhood friendship and eventual star-crossed relationship with William Shakespeare is written from her point of view in five acts. Throughout her story, Anne maintains a love/hate relationship with William and supports Shakespeare as he struggles to establish his career. It's very much like the old adage, "Behind every great man there is a great woman." Through troubles ranging from persecution and the plague, Whately remained supportive of Shakespeare to the end, believing that she was his true love.
This was one of those books that, while I enjoyed it, I wasn't captivated by the writing or the story. It took a while to get the story really going, and I kept waiting for rich, vivid details of Elizabethan life and Shakespeare' works to emerge. I had high hopes that this period piece would make Shakespeare's world come alive. It was a bit of a letdown; interesting at times, but not a great read.
Title: Mistress Shakespeare
Author: Karen Harper
Publisher: Putnam's Sons
genre: Historical fiction