Friday, August 24, 2007

A marriage of true minds?

Alright, I can't come up with any more wordplay on 'will' so I'm settling for a quotation. In listening to Loving Will Shakespeare, I've been easily distracted by thoughts Shakespearean:
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • the famous "second-best bed" in Will's will
  • revisionist, or merely made up, history
  • adults in teen novels (okay, that's not a Shakespearean thought)

I've been distracted because ultimately Loving Will Shakespeare just wasn't very interesting. This is the story of Anne Hathaway and how she became the wife of (very) young Will Shakespeare when she was 26 and he was 18. Which on the surface seems like an interesting story -- but, alas, given the young adult novel treatment was pretty much a bore. Anne is present at Will's christening, her mother dies of plague, father remarries a harridan, she grows up, has a few intense boyfriends, her father dies, her stepmother insists she marry, she runs into Will again, she gets pregnant, they marry, he leaves for London and they rarely see each other again. Professionally narrated by the reliable Katherine Kellgren, who -- unusually in audiobook narrators -- actually sings when singing is called for (Small Steps is a real disappointment in this arena, by the way) and invests Anne with a certain amount of girlish enthusiasm and then adult disappointment. This book simply never flew, but I don't think its source material was all that promising.

Hence the distractions:

  • Shakespeare in Love is a great movie, and I shall place a hold so I can watch it again!
  • Author Carolyn Meyer quotes [?] a letter from Shakespeare to his wife mentioning the fabulous bed that he is having made for her. There is only mention of the second-best bed in the will and that's the only thing he leaves his wife.
  • So, was the bequest in the will a big kiss-off to Anne? Was she an uneducated nag? Did she seduce him because she was headed to spinsterhood? Did he never come back to Stratford because he had something better in London? Why did he never portray a happy marriage in his plays? Was he essentially uninterested in his wife and children? In this story, Anne is lively, flirtatious, opinionated, and seduced by Will. And then there's the whole Shakespeare isn't really Shakespeare thing.
  • This book ultimately had nowhere to go. Anne's teen years are spent pretty much without Will, and she suffers disappointment and loss in love, but by the time she gets around to loving Will Shakespeare, she's in her twenties. And the bulk of her loving him involves her pining away in Stratford waiting for his infrequent letters and visits. Is this a teen novel?

And yes, an ordinary book can be a great audiobook, but this one just will not rise to the top.

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