LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts


by Bill Bryson.

Bryson admits straight away that he’s not a Shakespeare scholar, but he brings to the collective history a wholly objective voice. The one thing he knows about Shakespeare, he says, is that no one knows very much about Shakespeare.

Instead, he gives an account of Shakespeare’s era – the people, poetry, politics, places, plays, and plague – along with a fascinating insight into everyday life that kept me burning the midnight oil. Into this scene he places what we do know about the man, and considers the plausibility (or otherwise) of the many, many theories surrounding Shakespeare’s life and works. 

My only (very minor) niggle is that it felt just a touch repetitive in a couple of places. For the most part, reminders about previously-mentioned issues are helpful, but once or twice they grate.

There’s little in the way of Bryson’s usual laugh-out-loud humour in this book, showing he has approached the subject with the gravitas it deserves, but his wit still shines through, and he still had me laughing out loud at times – quite a feat for a book about the Bard.

I recommend this for anyone with an interest in Shakespeare, his plays, or his time.


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