The Lodger Shakespeare

At first glance, this book's premise hardly seems book-worthy. In 1612, Stephen Belott, feeling cheated out of his dowry, brought a suit against his father-in-law, Christopher Mountjoy. One of the witnesses called to testify was Mountjoy's former lodger, William Shakespeare. Whatever his sense of the potential theatricality of foiled marriages and in-law relations, the Bard isn't very revelatory and fails to wax poetic on the witness stand. He claims not to remember much about what happened. The event -- our only record of Shakespeare's spoken words ever being recorded -- was unearthed by an intrepid researcher in 1909. It's remained largely unremarked for a century. Nevertheless, it offers a window, however narrow, into Shakespeare's daily life and dealings. Charles Nichol, to his credit, illuminates that window. He's studiously exhumed what faint traces of early Jacobean times remain in the parish where Shakespeare briefly resided, fleshed out the context of the case, and elaborated the place in London society of Shakespeare's French landlords. What arrives through this meticulous upending is not so much a portrait, but a series of faint glimpses of the playwright at one moment of his otherwise mysterious life, as well as of the odd backdrop against which he chose for a time to prop it. At times, the very ordinariness of the life revealed is the book's exhilaration, while at others the pleasure is glimpsing a world whose mores and artifacts are almost wholly lost to us. Nichols manages to make both types of revelation suspenseful. -

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).