Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Bookman's Tale

The Bookman's Tale: 
A Novel of Obsession
Charlie Lovett
4.5 / 5

Published 2013

First Sentence
"Wales could be cold in February."
Publisher's Description:

A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt's Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.
Dear Reader,

Apparently, I have a thing for books about books.  I find I've been reading a LOT of them recently, and I've got a few more queued up, as well!  I don't know what it is - perhaps I just really enjoy the feeling of reading about something I love so much.  And seeing how much others love books, too.  The authors pour so much of themselves into these novels.

This one was especially good: evidenced by the fact that I stayed up FAR too late on a school night (technically, a work night, but I do work at a university, so...) to finish it up.  While it was an intriguing story right from the get-go, the action really picked up towards the end, and I could not put it down without resolving the mystery.  I have to admit, the last bit of the book reminded me quite a bit of a Robert Langdon novel, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise, because I did just finish reading one.  Also, I have a very limited knowledge of adventure-mystery books (what genre are they, really?) and therefore, that's really one of the few "detective" stories to which I can relate this book - due to my own narrow experience, though, and perhaps not that it was truly Dan Brown-esque in nature.

This story begins with that of a very recent widower named Peter, who is struggling to live again after the blow of losing his one true love, his college sweetheart.  Peter has social anxiety, and Amanda used to be his rock, the one who could make everything out in the world all right.  So his loss is manyfold: he must struggle not only to recover from losing Amanda, but also to return to the world at large, one that he would much prefer to hide from.  Peter is a rare book dealer, so luckily he can lose himself between the pages of an ancient text - usually.  However, he is startled from his quiet existence when he stumbles across an image of his dead wife...that was painted hundreds of years ago.

Desperate to solve the mysery of the painting, Peter begins a hunt which brings him in contact with a special rare book, one which may hold the answer to whether Shakespeare actually wrote the many plays attributed to him (an academic argument that has had scholars taking sides for years).  As he delves deeper into the mystery, he begins to see how the book and painting tie together - and how they might both be very, very dangerous items to possess.

Overall, a very interesting and engaging book.  The novel goes back and forth between Peter's present and the story of how he met Amanda, and the reader sees as the book progresses that many things which once seemed disparate are in fact woven closely together.  You won't want to stop reading until you figure out what the real story is!

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