Author: Karen Harper
Grade: C = Caution - 14 and up (sexual themes and mild language)
Publication Date: February 5, 2009
(Thank you to Christopher Nelson with G.P. Putman's Sons, and the Shelf Awareness program for the opportunity to recieve an Advance Review Copy of this book)
There are two different records filed within days of each other showing William Shakespeare's marriage. One of the records lists a marriage to an Anne Whateley, and the other to an Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway is known to be Shakespeare's wife, and the mother of his children, but the reason for the other record remains a mystery. Is it a misspelling, a misprint, or some other mistake? In Mistress Shakespeare Karen Harper puts forth a very convincing theory that Shakespeare actually had another woman, Anne Whateley, whom he married first, and then, upon finding Anne Hathaway pregnant, the first marriage was kept a secret.
Mistress Shakespeare is told through the eyes of the first, and unrecognized, Anne. From her meeting of Will near their homes as young teens, through his rise to fame and fortune, Anne is there. A very strong woman character, limited but not daunted by the restrictions put on women in her time, Anne pushes her way through life with incredible passion and compassion. William Shakespeare is her love and life, and much of the book covers his life, but Anne herself is not eclipsed by him, and feels just as real as does her non-fictional husband.
This book was very well written and researched. Especially enjoyable were the refrences to Shakespeare's sonnets and lines from his plays, and how they fit into that time in Shakespeare's life. So many things came to life for me while reading this book: the English countryside; London in all of its darkness and brilliance; the hardships of the times including sickening infant mortality rates, early old age, religious persecution, and the black plague. I very much appreciate historical fiction which does not idealize the past, or figures from history. Karen Harper manages a compelling novel, full of easily digestible and realistic history.
Visit Karen Harper's Webiste to learn more about this book, and to find places to pre-order.