First line: Lucrezia is taking her seat at the long dining table, which is polished to a watery gleam and spread with dishes, inverted cups, a woven circlet of fir.
Summary: Lucrezia de’ Medici is the third daughter of the grand duke of Florence. She has always been considered a little different than her siblings. Her family has given her freedom but also the same learning as her brothers. After the death of her sister she is suddenly pushed into a betrothal with her sister’s fiancé, the duke of Ferrara. Even though she fears this marriage she is a dutiful daughter. At first things seem to be going well with her husband but as time passes without an heir she starts to worry that something sinister is brewing in the duke’s mind.
My Thoughts: This book was beautifully written. I love O’Farrell’s style. It is almost poetic in the way it flows. For some it may not be their style and seem rather slow but I found it perfect for the period and subject.
Very little is known about the events of Lucrezia’s life but O’Farrell does a wonderful job of filling out the story and the characters. The narrative flashes back and forth between her childhood and the time of her marriage. I found the scenes with her husband to be dark and sinister. She is worried he is trying to kill her but she continues to question her feelings. As a reader I could feel the tension as she tried to decide how to handle her precarious situation.
If you loved Hamnet then I believe you will find this one just as intriguing. It has the same feeling of dread approaching with the same lyrical writing. I would highly recommend it be savored with a glass of wine on a crisp fall day.
First line: A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.
Summary: In 1580, in England, a young tutor named William Shakespeare meets the daughter of his employers. She is a strange girl who wanders the fields with her falcon on her arm. Against the wishes of their families they marry. Agnes has a reputation as a healer. People flock to her for cures. However, when their son, Hamnet, falls ill to the bubonic plague there is little she can do for the boy. With the heartache and loss Shakespeare writes one of his most epic plays.
My Thoughts: This book was beautifully written. It was almost poetic in its writing and style. I listened to most of this and the reader was so soothing. I think this would be a perfect book for book clubs, fans of historical fiction or literary fiction.
This brings to life a major part of Shakespeare’s life, his family. Very little is written or talked about since his most famous times were in London and on the stage. I loved learning about Agnes (or Anne) and their children. Life was so simple back then but also very tragic as well. I knew very little even though I have read several of his plays and watched many documentaries and movies of his life. The fact that we can still see some of the places he lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon is astounding since over 400 years have passed.
My favorite chapter, and the one that will most likely stick with me, was the one about the flea. O’Farrell spends a whole chapter on the flea that brought the plague to the home of William Shakespeare and eventually killed his only son. It is hard to imagine how something that started thousands of miles away could affect so many. The tale was fascinating. Who would ever consider writing about the flea?! It is genius.