Miranda inherits a bookshop – and a whole slew of secrets. Fun and clever, The Bookshop contains many allusions to Shakespeare, a literary mystery, and a box of family treasures.
Problem was, I solved the mystery in the first couple chapters, and the Shakespearean quotes bogged me down after a while. I think a little more work ensuring the book flowed effortlessly (for the reader!) would have helped. Even though I really liked Miranda and the other bookshop staff, and I thought that Meyerson did a good job developing the friendships, the family relationships and the mystery itself all seemed a little contrived. All’s well that ends well, though, right?
I first read this when I was around 17, doing a comparative literature course on Shakespeare and contemporary writers. This was my first time reading anything by Jane Smiley, and to be honest, the Pulitizer didn’t mean a whole lot to me! Now, I love King Lear – in fact, it is my favourite of Shakespeare’s published plays. Reading Shakespeare at 17, especially one of the less “famous” ones, was quite daunting, but reading Smiley’s interpretation alongside it, made it not only easier, but it gave me a better appreciation of it.
If you don’t know the plot, here is a very simplified version: Smiley presents us with a family that owns a 1000 acre farm in 1970’s Iowa. We have Larry, Caroline, Ginny and Rose who are obviously representing Lear, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Larry, who is getting on in years, decides to transfer ownership of his farm between his 3 daughters, with Caroline not agreeing. This begins a journey in which none of the characters fare very well.
Much like Shakespeare’s play, Smiley gives us a rich novel full of varying themes. However, it is also simple and honest. I say simple not as an insult, but indeed a compliment. Smiley is able portray common tragedies and instances of abhorrence and turn them into a multi-faceted series of events that propel the actions and growth of the characters.
I’m not going to go on and on about this book because sometimes, less is more!
If you haven’t read this novel, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy today!
I won’t lie. It took me a while to get into this novel but at the end of the day I have to say I really did enjoy it! I’ve heard a few friends mention that they didn’t care for it because they kept waiting for something to happen….maybe that’s why I did end up enjoying it so much…I finally stopped trying to figure out any surprises or to look for something to happen….let’s face it…the story itself is what is happening….from start to finish life and the end of life is happening….this is one of those rare books that you don’t have to look for the unexpected. You don’t have to follow a storyline of ups and downs…you just need to sit back and follow along in the life of the day of survivors of an epidemic that has wiped out the majority of Earth’s population.
However, if you think this is a novel about a post-apocalyptic world you would think wrong. This is a novel about what it means to be human. About what it means to remain human in the face of adversity…
I believe that with the success of this book that there will be a second novel….it would be wonderful if we are lucky enough for Mandel to grace us with another…I would love to hear more about Station Eleven. I would love for all the characters to meet up at some point…having said that, don’t go into this feeling you might be disappointed with a storyline that didn’t end….remember! This isn’t that type of book….
It’s well worth the investment of your time….
Until next time…
Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review
Stephen Greeblatt is touted as the preeminent authority on the study of Shakespeare, and for the longest time, I have been meaning to read some of his work. It’s taken me a while, but I finally got there! As someone who predominantly reads fiction, getting through this nonfiction book took a little bit longer than usual. However, it was well worth it.
Have you ever been interested in what influenced Shakespeare and his plays/sonnets? Of course, there are many theories out there that claim to have some insight into the motives behind the works, but so many of them are based upon urban legend and propaganda, that it is difficult to separate the truth (or as close to the truth you’ll get without actually interviewing The Bard himself) from hyperbole and outright lies. In his book, Greenblatt examines what little remain of historical records relating to Shakespeare, his family, and other figures of the time, and bases his theories upon historical and sociological context. Greenblatt quite clearly states that some of his theories are based both upon the scarce historical records available and some educated conjecture.
Whilst, Greenblatt admits that his theories cannot be taken as the ultimate indisputable truth, with over 45 years of professional experience devoted to Shakespeare studies, this is probably the closest to accuracy as we’ll get for a while.
As I said above, reading this piece of nonfiction took a while to get into. Once I got into it however, his style of writing began to read like fiction. Greenblatt does not assume that we’ve all taken graduate courses in Jacobean drama or 17th century history, but nor does he belittle his reader; Greenblatt’s narrative takes us chronologically through the known history and events of Shakespeare’s time, and presents us with an entertaining, but educated, glance into the influence behind many of the plays that we’ve all known and loved (or hated!) over the years.
Buy it here: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare