Monday 10 September 2018

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Here I am thinking I've read so many of Bernard Cornwell's books - just checked and read a grand total of one, including this one. It must be all that vicarious reading while my husband tears through one war epic after another.

"Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry – and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory – propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal."

This is a departure from the usual for Bernard Cornwell readers. I don't think it turns out that much less gory - although it's not set on a battlefield, Elizabethan England had its share of violent and revolting behaviour.

The tale is told whilst the players are putting on A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Lord Chamberlain's daugher's wedding. It's told from the viewpoint of Richard - the less-famous, younger brother, who wants to be an actor, only it's tough to get a break, especially when your popular brother doesn't seem to want to take a chance on you, in fact it would seem he hates you.

Then of course there's the rival theatre - The Swan, which needs material, actors and writers, setting the scene for stolen scripts and betrayal and intrigue. All set in a disapproving Puritan atmosphere. A rich and detailed account, although I fear it may feel lame compared to the Wars of the Roses, I enjoyed it.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780007504121

You may also enjoy Two Brothers by Ben Elton or Robert Harris' Imperium.

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