Alissa Walser: Mesmerized – Am Anfang war die Nacht Musik (2010)

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I so wanted to love this book. I liked the premise, the first sentences were evocative and descriptive but then, a few pages later, I just couldn’t stand the style anymore. Admittedly, it’s artful but also quite lifeless and tedious. The whole book contains only indirect speech and a great majority of the sentences are only fragments. Very staccato and after a longer period of reading, very repetitive. I’ve read mostly positive reviews of this book on English blogs, but they were all based on the translation while I read the German original. Maybe it reads better in English? The German critics were either impressed with the style or they called it artificial.

The story as such, which is based on true events, is fascinating. It’s set in Vienna in 1777  and in Paris in 1784. Franz Anton Mesmer was one of the most famous doctors of his time. A controversial figure who invented a treatment method involving what he called “animal magnetism”, in which he applied magnets to his patients or applied some sort of energy therapy. Some of the cases were quite miraculous, the most famous being the cure of the blind musician Maria Theresia Paradis. Maria lost her sight at the age of five and it was never clear what caused it. Still she was an accomplished musician and protégée of the empress. Mesmer moves her away from her family and treats her in his hospital. After a few weeks the girl can see again. Unfortunately it affects her music. Seeing makes her less of an accomplished musician. Her parents and doctors come running and in the end, nobody really knows why, she loses her eyesight again and Mesmer is called a fraud. After these unhappy developments Mesmer flees to Paris where some see him as a charlatan, others think he’s a miraculous doctor.

The book clearly underlines that Mesmer has found a relationship between body and mind and in removing Maria from her family he indicates that the surroundings were toxic. Maria’s blindness has a lot in common with some of the hysterical symptoms Freud will describe later.

What I really liked in this book is how music and energy are paired. Nobody denies the effect of music, the wonder of it, despite the fact that you can neither touch nor see music, still most people around Mesmer, don’t believe in energy fields in the body. Mesmer is a musician as well and the bond he forms with Maria, a bond her parents and his wife equally fear and hate, is strong because they understand each other on a deeper level. They communicate through their love of music. His understanding of her personality is much more intuitive than rational and that may have been a reason why the therapy worked so well. Until the parents turned up and Maria was dragged in front of a critical public who was hoping she wasn’t cured.

There are tragic elements in the book. Many quacks tried to cure Maria before she was brought to Mesmer and some of the brutal treatments left scars on her. Even in 18th Century Austria there were a lot of physicians more interested in money than the cure of an ill person.

The translation of the title is a bit surprising. In German the book is called “In the beginning the night was music”, which is a very rich, lyrical and biblical sounding title.

If I had liked Alissa Walser’s style, which reminded me a bit of Elfriede Jelinek, I would have loved the book, but since I found it tiresome, I didn’t.

A few more positive reviews

TBM (50 Year Project) 

David (Follow the Thread)

Iris on Books

Here’s the author reading the beginning of the novel:

Tatiana de Rosnay: The House I Loved (2012)

Her newest novel, Rose, is already an early spring hit in France. Again written initially in English, this historical work evokes Paris under the Second Empire and the grand urban redesign ordered by Baron Haussmann: Rose, an aging widow living in her family home in a small street near the church of Saint Germain des Prés, receives a letter announcing that her home is slated for destruction to make way for the new Boulevard Saint Germain.

I haven’t read any of Tatiana de Rosnay’s novels before. Knowing she is one of the most successful French writers made me a bit suspicious but when I saw a copy of Rose in our local bookshop I felt drawn to it immediately as the novel is about Paris. It’s only after browsing the book that I found out, the original, The House I Loved, was written in English and Rose is a translation. I wasn’t even aware that Tatiana de Rosnay has written most of her latest novels in English and – less surprisingly – that this contributed to her international success.

The House I Loved is written in  the form of a long letter from Rose to her deceased husband. She tells him that she has, after all, been informed that she has to move. Her house is among those which will be destroyed to make way for the large boulevards which are part of the redesign of Paris ordered by the Prefect, Baron Haussman. The idea to lose the house breaks Rose’s heart. She loves this house, loves it for its history and because it is the family home of her husband. For her, whose mother was cold and distant, the house has become her home just like his family has become her family.

In this long letter she looks back on her past, how she grew up, how they met, speaks to him about her children, their life together, the sadness about the death of her son, about her husband’s illness, his confusion and his death. The memories and remembrances are often interrupted by the present. The people who will tear down the house will arrive soon but she has still not left. She speaks of the destruction, how the city changes.

I had a bit of a problem with the way this was told. The tone is very sentimental, at times corny, the voice too modern for the time depicted. I think it would have been much better as a third or a simple first person narrative instead of this epistolary confession. Still I’m very glad I have read this. It captured a particular moment in the history of the city of Paris very well. I love Paris for its big Boulevards and Avenues, the Paris of the Baron Haussmann. They represent Paris for me. When those big Boulevards were designed, the old medieval streets had to go, the houses were torn down. I tend to forget at what cost the remodeling of the city was achieved. It is so hard to imagine what it would have meant to own a family house, full of memories and histories and to be informed that it will be torn down and destroyed for the sake of modernisation and sanitation. Tatiana de Rosnay captures the enormity of such a loss very well.

In oder to achieve authenticity, Tatiana de Rosnay said in an interview, she wrote most of the novel with a pen, by candlelight. “I had the idea for this novel 15 years ago, after seeing pictures of streets now forgotten,” she explains. “It contains my two obsessions: memories embedded in the walls and family secrets.”

If anything The House I Loved made me want to pick up a few non-fiction books on this topic or Zola’s novel La CuréeThe Kill, which Emma reviewed recently here.

If you don’t mind a sentimental tone and are fond of historical novels and books set in Paris you might enjoy this entertaining novel.

I have attached a video about an exhibition of photos taken during the time. Although it is in French, you see many amazing photos. The person interviewed speaks about the numbers – how many houses were destroyed and why and about the photographer and why there were no people on the photos (at that time they couldn’t capture movement – so the streets had to be empty).

This review is a contribution to Karen’s and Tamaras‘s event Paris in July

Tracy Chevalier: Remarkable Creatures (2009)

On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious authorities on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After struggling through cold storms, landslips, and other natural threats, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.

l often say I don’t like historical (genre) novels but I will not say this anymore. I may not pick them up frequently but when I do I often enjoy them. Even more so when they open a door to a world that fascinates me and of which I didn’t know a lot. Tracy Chevalier’s book Remarkable Creatures was exactly one of those books.

In the early 19th century the little working-class girl Mary Anning helps her family make a living with “curies” – curiosities – she finds on the beaches of Lyme Regis. Uneducated as she is, she doesn’t know a lot about fossils, she only knows that the rich people who come to stay at Lyme Regis give her money for her finds. Elizabeth Philpot who has moved to Lyme Regis with her two sisters is equally attracted by fossils. She is an unmarried woman who due to her unpleasing looks and the lack of money has no chance of ever finding a husband. When she meets Mary she is immediately aware that the girl has a gift. Where others see only stones and rubble, little Mary spots fossils. The two become friends and Elizabeth mentors the girl and helps her to sell her finds to a good price. When Mary makes a revolutionary discovery, the fossilized skeleton of an Ichthyosaurus, it is Elizabeth who fights for Mary’s right to be rewarded and acknowledged as the finder.

The book tells the life story of these two women in alternating first person narratives. It desribes their struggles, their failure at finding love and their fight for recognition. This is a time in which the idea of evolution, the fact that there once have been species that are now extinct, is thought to be blasphemous and heretic. And it’s even more problematic to acknowledge that women could contribute to science. Mary Anning’s discoveries are “remarkable” to some and shocking to many others.

This idea was too radical for most to contemplate. Even I, who considered myself open-minded, was a little shocked to be thinking it, for it implied that God did not plan out what He would do with all of the animals He created. If He was willing to sit back and let creatures die out, what did that mean for us? Were we going to die out too? Looking at that skull with its huge, ringed eyes, I felt as if I were standing on the edge of a cliff.

I was completely captivated by this story. The descriptions are so well done. Tracy Chevalier has a gift to bring the past to life. I already noticed that when I read Girl With a Pearl Earring. The period detail seems extremely well done. I have always been fascinated by fossils and delighted when I found some but I never bothered to read much about them. I had never heard of Mary Anning before and loved to be introduced to this amazing woman and her story.

I expected something slightly different though. I thought this would be a novel about a friendship which it is to a certain extent only not the type I had in mind. I’m obviously used to modern-day friendships with the emphasis on discussion and soul-baring. There is none of this in this book. Their friendship is expressed in silent company, not conversation. More than anything else, these two women form a little support group. Both have not been treated kindly by society and could be called outcasts. Elizabeth maybe less than Mary but still to some extent as well. Both are trapped by their respective class and their gender and if it hadn’t been for the fossils and their attachment to each other, they would have lived sad and lonely lives.

The melancholy mood and the evocative descriptions of the setting, the beaches of Lyme Regis, the weather, the danger of being killed in a landslip fascinated me even more than the story of these two women. The cover of the book captures some of this very well. A lonely rather rough-looking beach and two figures completely absorbed by what they see.

I’ve read that others found the book to be flat or lacking. It wasn’t any of this for me. I liked it a great deal and would highly recommend it to those who like Tracy Chevalier’s books.

Have you read this or other books by Tracy Chevalier? Which is your favourite?

Here is the link to Tracy Chevalier’s blog and a video in which you can see the beaches and listen to her talk about the creation of the book and why she chose to tell this story. It’s quite fascinating.

The book is part of a readalong hosted by Emma (Book Around the Corner). Unfortunately the book didn’t work for her. You can find her impressions here.

Sebastian Barry: A Long Long Way (2005) Literature and War Readalong February 2012

Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way is one of a few WWI novels told from an Irish perspective. Unlike How Many Miles to Babylon or many other WWI novels, its main theme isn’t class which was something I was glad for. Not that I think it wasn’t important but it has become one of the clichés of WWI literature. That and so many other elements. Luckily there aren’t all that many clichés in Barry’s novel.

Nineteen year-old Willie Dunne from Dublin volunteers in the early days of WWI. Like so many before or after him, he has no real reason, or they are at best quite vague and mostly personal. Maybe little Willie wants to prove himself and prove his father that he is worthy despite of his size. His father, a tall and imposing fellow, is a policeman. Something little Willie could never have become because he is barely taller than a midget. The army doesn’t care. They are in such great need of volunteers that they accept almost anyone.

We follow naive little Willie to Belgium where he spends his first months in the relative comfort of the rear camp, hardly seeing any fighting at all. Nothing really bad happens to little Willie and his company until one day, the soldiers see a yellow cloud hovering slowly over no-man’s-land. It takes them far too long to realize what that yellow cloud means, and only much too late, when many of them are already dying a cruel death or maimed for life, do they flee in horror. After this moment the novel takes a turn and becomes graphic and tragic and Willie loses his naivety at a breathtaking speed.

Although he sees many horrible things, it is only after his first leave to Ireland, that Willie is really affected. Not because he doesn’t fit in anymore – Barry doesn’t use this cliché either – but because Ireland is on the brink of the War of Independence and Willie, a compassionate man, is saddened to see the death of a young rebel and to realize that for the first time in his life, he doesn’t see things like his father.

Back in the trenches he tells the other Irish lads what he has seen at home. The newspapers write about it too and the British officers are aggressive and see them even more as cannon fodder than before. The longer the war lasts, the more intense the fighting in Ireland gets, the less the efforts and losses of the Irish are appreciated. In the end there are finally no more volunteers from Ireland. They do not want to fight for the enemy anymore and some would even gladly join the Germans. When Willie takes his second leave to Dublin, the aggression in the streets against his British uniform is open.

It is rare that I resent an author for his narrative technique but I do resent the way Barry wrote this novel. Furthermore I had a hard time with his style, I think it’s far from fluent and the overuse of adjectives at times was annoying. Just one example:

Now they rose up in the violent moonlight and entered bizarrely a huge field of high corn, the frail stems brushing gently against their faces, and because Willie was a small man, he had to grip the coat of the Sergeant-Major Moran in front or he would be lost, set adrift to wander for ever in this unexpected crop. The absurd bombs followed them religiously into the field, smashing all about the darkness, the stench of cordite and other chemicals obliterating the old dry smell of the corn.

As if the violent moonlight wasn’t enough, they have to enter the field bizarrely, followed religiously by absurd bombs? Admittedly, this was one of the worst passages but there were others, equally florid. This doesn’t explain why I resent him but it’s part of it. I felt tricked. This novel works like a trap door. You are lured into a devastated house which is bad enough but the moment you are inside, the carpet is pulled away from under you and the trap door opens. There is a building up of graphic scenes and an intensification of the tragedies that befall poor Willie that felt really mean. I was upset that the book had to end like it did, so absolutely depressing, without the tiniest little bit of hope or light. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because the book describes graphic scenes, it’s because he intensifies them and accelerates it towards the end, when we do not see it coming anymore and, on top of that, has poor Willie experience one personal tragedy after the other.

With the exception of the dishonest structure, and an almost sadistic finishing off of the main character, the novel has a lot of elements that I thought well done. I haven’t read any WWI novel this eloquent on the use and the horrors of mustard gas. Nor any novel that showed the role of the priests so well. Father Buckley was my favourite character in this novel. A Catholic Priest with true compassion and a wide open heart. And I liked Barry’s choice of theme. His look at authority and its major representative, the father is very interesting. The father as a figure comes in many different forms, as the biological father, the King, the Priest. Coming to terms with authority and ultimately becoming a man and independent are important aspects. Little Willie isn’t a boy anymore at the end of the book, he is a man, with his own opinions, his own life. The book stays away from the usual criticism of high command but uncovers all sorts of hidden false authority.

A Long Long Way has been my second Sebastian Barry novel and I was also annoyed by the first. I just don’t like this type of artifice and manipulative writing that is so keen on effect.

I hope others have liked the book better. After all it has won many prizes. I’m looking forward to see what you thought.

Other reviews

Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Danielle (A Work in Progress)

Serena (Savvy Verse and Wit)

A Long Long Way is my second contribution to the War Through the Generations Challenge hosted by Anna and Serena.

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A Long Long Way was the second book in the Literature and War Readalong 2012. The next one will be Jean Giono’s Le grand troupeau – To the Slaughterhouse. Discussion starts on Friday March 30, 2012.

Helen Dunmore: Zennor in Darkness (1993) Literature and War Readalong January 2012

Helen Dunmore’s first novel Zennor in Darkness is set on the Cornish coast in 1917. The sound of war can be heard from afar. The first young men return from France, some of them are missing limbs, others are shell-shocked like Claire Coyne’s cousin John William. Although the war is present on every page, in the suspicions of the people, the fear that all the boys will be drafted, the noise the wind blows over from France, the scarcity of money and food, this is a novel of dreamlike beauty. Dunmore conveys the soft light of the Cornish coast, the beauty of the lovely landscape, the slow pace of life. This softness is mirrored in the way she changes the point of views, blurring the edges, softening the transitions, so that it feels as if one person’s consciousness and interior monologue, was flowing gently into that of another character. Reading it made me dreamy and I felt as if I was watching a water-color come to life. I read this book very slowly. I could have finished it in a few evenings but I put it aside frequently to make it last.

Zennor in Darkness interweaves the fictional story of Claire Coyne, and her cousin John William with the story of D.H.Lawrence and his wife. Claire lives alone with her father. Her mother who died while she was still very little was from Cornwall, while her father is an outsider, just like Lawrence. He comes from a rich Londoner family and was always seen as an intruder. Claire’s maternal grandparents, her aunts, uncles and cousins live close by. The children are a tight-knit community since they were little kids. They are so close that, although it seems logical for us, nobody suspects Claire and John William to be lovers.

The war has taken its toll, hundreds of thousands are dead and a lack in officers makes it possible for someone like John William who isn’t noble, to become an officer. He returns from France for a brief visit before he will join a training camp where he will stay a few months before being sent back to France.

Before his return Claire has befriended D.H. Lawrence. She is fascinated by him and even more so by his attractive German wife, Frieda. Not everyone is happy about their stay in Zennor. Germans are suspected to be spies and people would like to see them gone. Lawrence and his wife are happy in Cornwall. Their dream of a community of like-minded people has been shattered after Katherine Mansfield and her husband have left but still they love Cornwall and their simple life. Lawrence works in the garden, befriends the villagers. It’s not as easy for Frieda but she likes it as well. To the Lawrences Cornwall means more than just a place to stay, it is a refuge, a shelter and to watch their dream being crushed is painful.

Lawrence discovers that Claire is talented at drawing and encourages her to pursue a career. She introduces him to John William and Lawrence feels, more so than Claire, that John William hides something. One evening, when the two men walk alone in the balmy Cornish night, John William lets himself go in front of Lawrence, unable to hide the signs of shell-shock any longer.

Zennor in Darkness is a very beautiful novel and if anything it made me want to read more of Helen Dunmore. And it also made me want to return to D.H. Lawrence whose books I have abandoned for too long. I’ve always liked D.H.Lawrence, his novels, short stories, essays and letters and found that she captured him and his relationship with his wife very well. Frieda was a von Richthofen. A cousin of the famous Red Baron. Abandoning her marriage, her children and her privileges must have cost her a lot. I was always fascinated by this free spirit. The end of the book moved me. I knew the part related to the Lawrences, still it made me angry, while the fictitious story of Claire and John Williams made me sad.

What I found astonishing is the combination of beauty and horror. The descriptions of the Cornish coast, its air, light, flora and fauna alternate with passages like this one.

In Flanders the struggle for the Passchendaele Ridge continues. The poppy-blowing fields are ploughed by German and English guns, and sown with a litter of lost equipment, a seeding of blood and bone. Soon it will be autumn there too, and heavy northern rains will fall. Men will be listed missing, presumed drowned – a new classification for the lists in the newspaper. They are presumed drowned in the mud in which they live and often die. The men who came ‘right away to Blighty’ with John William will return to Flanders with their new commissions soon. Their training lasts only three months, and then they are wanted back at the Front. Hammond will die on a mission described to him by a senior officer as ‘rather a tricky bit of patrol-work’. His body will not be found. Simcox, a dozen feet to the left of him, will survive.

Ultimately however Zennor in Darkness is a novel about the difficulty to know another person. Either because you see them as strangers, or because they are too close for you and you lose all perspective. Like in real life, in many instances a stranger understands another character better than his own family, while at the same time, the community projects fear on the outsider.

In any case this was an excellent start to the Literature and War Readalong 2012.

Other reviews

Danielle (A Work in Progress)

Lizzy (Lizzy’s Literary Life)

Sarah (A Rat in the Book Pile)

Zennor in Darkness is also my first contribution to the War Through the Generations Challenge hosted by Anna and Serena.

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Zennor in Darkness was the first book in the Literature and War Readalong 2012. The next one will be Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way. Discussion starts on Monday February 27, 2012.

Madame de Lafayette: The Princesse de Monpensier – La Princesse de Montpensier (1662)

The Princess of Montpensier

I’m not a re-reader but I have read Mme de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves at least four times. It is my favourite novel. For its style as well as for the story. There is something in the way Mme de Lafyette describes feelings that touches me profoundly. She wasn’t a very prolific writer. Before publishing La Princesse de Clèves (1678) she published La Princesse de Montpensier (1662) anonymously and later La Comtesse de Tende. Zaïde (1670/71) was published shortly after La Princesse de Montpensier. Although Zaïde was published under a pseudonym, it seems to be sure that it was also written by Mme de Lafayette.

Generally I’m not so much into the literature of the 19th century, I often feel that earlier writers, especially some of the French ones, are far more modern and original. This is certainly the case of Mme de Lafayette. Until a few days ago I had not read anything else by her but I bought a book called Nouvelles galantes du XVIIè siècle (it contains stories by Mme de Lafayette, Saint-Réal, Du Plaisir and Catherine Bernard) and finally read La Princesse de Montpensier.

It is a short novella but it’s as wonderful and as astonishing as her masterpiece. Her style is flawless, it is pure perfection. I particularly like her use of the passé simple and the indirect speech. The language is as fresh as a newly cut rose, it hasn’t aged one day.

Mme de Lafayette was an innovator. Before her most of the baroque novels, like d’Urfés L’Astrée, were thousands of pages long. To be this concise and precise like she was, was unheard of before. She was also one of the first to write historical fiction. The people in her books did exist, however the story is invented.

La Princesse de Montpensier is set during a very tumultuous period of French history. It starts 1566,  during the civil war in which Catholics and Protestants fought a bloody battle, and ends in 1572 at the time of the horrible massacre of the Nuit de La Saint-Barthélemy or The St.-Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

La Princesse de Montpensier and the Duc the Guise are secretly in love with each other. They are very young and hope to get married but for political reasons her family decides otherwise and marries her to the Prince de Montpensier. This is a great tragedy for the princess. She doesn’t love her husband and when conflict breaks out she is glad to see him go to war. Montpensier leaves the Comte the Chabannes with her, not knowing how much in love the Comte already is with the princess as well.

This is a time in which women do hardly ever choose their husbands and adultery is very common. The princess is an extremely beautiful woman and it isn’t surprising that there are many men falling for her. She fights them all off until the day when she sees the Duc de Guise again. A qui pro quo and the intense jealousy of her husband accelerate the story. The end is somewhat unexpected and tragic.

I was thinking of Kleist while reading this novella and saw once more how much German changed while French has pretty much stayed the same since the 17th Century. La Princess de Montpensier is 150 years older than Kleist’s The Duel but it feels so much more modern.

I really loved this story and will soon read La Comtesse de Tende as well. I cannot believe that this was only 50 pages long, it feels as if I had read a novel, it is so rich. The five main protagonists are all equally well developed. All five of them are hurt and we feel for all of them. We know the society is to blame for their tragedy but Mme de Lafayette wouldn’t be Mme de Lafayette if she didn’t pick one particular person and blame her.

Still, if you have never read anything by her, I would recommend to start with The Princesse de Clèves but this little book is very beautiful as well.

I would love to watch Bertrand Tavernier’s movie La Princesse de Montpensier. Has anyone seen it?

Louise Welsh: Tamburlaine Must Die (2004)

It’s 1593 and London is a city on edge. Under threat from plague and war, it’s a desperate place where strangers are unwelcome and severed heads grin from spikes on Tower Bridge. Playwright, poet, spy, Christopher Marlowe has three days to live. Three days in which he confronts dangerous government factions, double agents, necromancy, betrayal and revenge in his search for the murderous Tamburlaine, a killer who has escaped from between the pages of Marlowe’s most violent play. The Final Testament of Christopher Marlowe is a swashbuckling adventure story of a man who dares to defy God and state and who discovers that there are worse fates than damnation.

I really enjoyed Tamburlaine Must Die. I liked Louise Welsh’s latest novel Naming the Bones (here’s the review) and wanted to read another one and I wasn’t disappointed. However I know the book got very mixed reviews and this mainly because of the language. Clearly Welsh tried to write 16th century English and might not have been 100% successful. I didn’t care or – because I’m not a native speaker – didn’t notice. I thought the language was beautiful.

In her novella Louise Welsh lets Christopher Marlowe, the famous playwright, tell his final ten days. Someone has written a libel in his name, imitating his writing, signing with the name of the main-protagonist of one of his plays, Tamburlaine. Welsh imgines how and why he must have been killed, how he spent his last days, sleeping with men and women, drinking too much, picking fights, putting himself in danger through his blasphemies.

I think Christopher Marlowe is one of the most fascinating figures of literature. An immensely gifted writer, a rake, a debauchee, a spy, a rough neck, a ruffian, an innovator and subversive man  and many other things. The book is atmospheric and evocative, you see the streets of London, the intrigue, the danger of a city afflicted by the plague, the violence of the times. Any sign of not following the Church, not being loyal to the Queen, being a homosexual were highly dangerous.

We know Marlowe escaped the dungeon but only to face death through an unknown enemy. His murder has never been solved and to this day there are many speculations.

I think I start to realize what type of historical novels I like. I like it when a writer manages to give a voice to historical figures, makes them come alive, imagines how they thought and felt.

One thing that has been criticized is that she didn’t depict a fear-ridden Marlowe although he knew he was going to be killed. I think from what I know of the man, he wasn’t too anxious, he threw himself into life until his last moment. He would have gladly gone on living, writing more plays but if this wasn’t to be, then it wasn’t. As simple as that.

The best about the book is that it sparked my imagination. I’m in the mood to read Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, The Great and Doctor Faustus which influenced Goethe and Thomas Mann and I would also be interested in reading about him.

Louise Welsh based her book to a large part on Charles Nicholl’s The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe but David Rigg’s The World of Christopher Marlowe sounds equally interesting.

Has anyone read any of these or other books about Tudor England?