Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell is his newest book and I loved it. It’s the first book by the author that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be reading more. I have watched his series, The Lost Kingdom and bits of Sharpe which have been dramatised for TV.
In this one William Shakespeare’s much younger brother Richard has run away from home to join up with William, hoping to become an actor. William is less than pleased to see him but grudgingly allows him to play the female parts in some plays. Richard is having to live very frugally as William does him no favours and really seems to despise Richard. Richard turns thief to try to make ends meet, he’s a risk taker as every theft could easily end in him being hanged.
William has his own problems though, there are rival playhouses and companies of actors around, but a scarcity of good plays to put on. William is busy writing plays but he knows that if anyone else gets their hands on his work and performs it before his players do, they can easily pass it off as their own work, in fact they would then own it and there would be nothing he could do about it.
The blurb says: Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force with all Bernard Cornwell’s hallmark storytelling and a remarkable cast of characters: you walk the streets, explore the palaces, experience the scandals, rivalries and fierce ambitions, and stand side by side with the men and women of Elizabethan London.
In the author’s notes Bernard Cornwell mentions that someone did lots of historical research for him, most of which wasn’t used but obviously what he was able to use must have contributed hugely to the book being such a success – for me anyway. I don’t know if the Paris Garden Stairs in Southwark are known to everyone else, possibly it’s just one of those many blank spots in my knowledge, but I don’t recall ever hearing of this part of London – Southwark, which is where Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers disembarked from their barges to get to the playhouses.
I think the only other book that I’ve read about Shakespeare is The Stratford Story by Rosemary Anne Sisson I must admit though I had remembered the title as being something different, maybe they changed it – as often happens. That’s also a good read but might be difficult to find now.