I seem to be back on a Shakespeare kick. A blog I follow on Networked Blogs sent me an email last week and was offering a new release from Enigma Press (great name) called Welcome to London, William Shakespeare. Author D. Lawrence-Young, an English drama teacher and lecturer, has written 3 other historical novels about Shakespeare and more than a half dozen other novels. He is also chairman of the Jerusalem Shakespeare Society.
Lawrence-Young has created a plausible story about Shakespeare’s early life and how after a time tutoring in the north, he arrives in London to be captivated by the sights and sounds of the bustling city even though some, such as the heads of Catholic traitors on pikes atop the tower at London Bridge and the slashed mastiffs at Bear Garden in Southwark, were best forgotten but not the danger and violence they represented. In short order, young Will meets other “scribblers” with whom he can discuss plays and plots and James Burbage takes him into his theatre as playwright. Before long, his plays are popular and he is able to send money home for his wife, parents, and children. But nowhere in England, or abroad for that matter, is safe for a young man with Catholic relations under the protestant Queen Elizabeth and her spymasters, first Sir Francis Walsingham and then, Lord Burghley.
Spies are everywhere and the relatively poor playwright whose family is always in need of money is soon forced into spying for one of Lord Burghley’s many intelligencers who were always seeking out Catholics or atheists plotting against the queen or trying to foment sedition. In desperate need of money in order to stay in London (where he has met his ‘dark lady’ of his sonnets), Will agrees to travel abroad to Italy to find the names of English Catholics plotting there and discover their plans. He agrees partly in order to see places he wants to put into his plays — the home of Romeo and Juliet, the setting of Two Gentlemen of Verona — and describe them better. Finally, their group of players is commanded to present a comedy before the Queen and Will gets to introduce his play as he did another play in Stratford, years earlier.
The story is well-written with excellent descriptions and dialogue. It is fairly well-paced and easy to read. I was a bit taken aback when the 3rd person narration changed in the 15th chapter to a 1st person narration by Master Robert Poley, one of Lord Burghley’s chief intelligencers, and half-way through switched back again. Other than that and a few minor editorial errors, the book has good flow, is interesting, and makes use of what facts are available to weave an interesting novel. Lawrence-Young’s bibliography is impressive. * * *
This was my first adventure with a Kindle book. I had to download the free Kindle app for my Apple ipad and then bought the novel from Amazon and it downloaded right to my ipad. It was very straightforward and I read the book in less than 2 days. The book reminded me a bit of the movie, Shakespeare in Love (Widescreen) (Collector’s Series), so I took it out and watched it again. Great fun! * * * *