Book: The Tutor
Author: Andrea Chapin
Available: 26th March
Summary: When the body of a Catholic priest is found by Katherine, a young widow staying with relatives in Lufanwal, life for the family begins to unravel. The head of the family flees England and, in his absence, resentment and ambition thrive. Into the midst of this upheaval comes a young tutor, quick-witted and unorthodox: William Shakespeare. Katherine is drawn helplessly into Will’s world of poetry and imagination, the intensity of her love distracting her from disasters looming all around. But malicious forces can’t be ignored for long, and conspiracies threaten to overwhelm the natural order – and charming Will Shakespeare is not what he seems.
Whenever I’ve studied Shakespeare, one of the things that has always fascinated me, apart from his writing obviously, is how little we actually know about the playwright. I am a big fan of historical fiction surrounding his life and what might have inspired him to write. Therefore, Andrea Chapin’s The Tutor was right up my street. It’s got politics, religion, romance and literature, so whatever your favourite genre is, chances are this book will appeal.
The protagonist, Katherine, meets Will Shakespeare during a turbulent time in her life (I won’t give too much away), and begins to edit his writing for him. Katherine is a great character – she’s level-headed but passionate, kind but not a pushover. There’s a vulnerability about her but she’s still a strong character – widowed after a tragic fire, she throws herself into books and her family, and I like that she isn’t portrayed as someone to feel sorry for – even the times where we do pity her, you still get the sense that she will bounce back.
Then there’s Will Shakespeare. I think he can be a tricky character because of how renowned he is, but Andrea does a great job. I love that she doesn’t create a flawless genius – Will is rude, insolent, but also really funny and mysterious. It’s easy to forget that he was a real person, I think Andrea does a great job of setting him up as simply another character in her book, a love interest for Katherine – she doesn’t draw too much on what we think we know about him, she brings him to life on the page in her own way. Without giving too much away, at times he is cruel and Andrea writes in a way that you find yourself resenting him for how he treats Katherine. There’s so much speculation out there about who/what inspired Shakespeare, and I like how we get a glimpse into the character’s thought process, but from Katherine’s point of view to keep him slightly mysterious.
Andrea’s writing is brilliant – there’s a lot of detail but you don’t feel like she has picked up a history book and stuck to everything. When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another world, not feel like I’m studying non-fiction, and in Andrea’s case it’s definitely the former.
The chapters are quite short so this is an ideal book for a commuter, but to be honest I think it will appeal the most to anyone who loves and has studied Shakespeare.
What are you all reading this week? x