Publisher: Viking Adult
Released: May 28, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the Library
A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.
Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.
This book has been on my wish list forever, so I was thrilled when my hold was finally available at the library. THE BOOKMAN’S TALE was an intricate mystery and bittersweet love story in one. The protagonist Peter Byerly is an antiquarian bookseller and book restorer, which of course, I thought was fascinating!
After the death of his wife Amanda, Peter moves from North Carolina to a tiny town in England. In his grief, he tries to shut himself off from the world, and for several months he succeeds. Then one day while browsing a bookshop, he finds a Victorian painting of a woman resembling Amanda stuck between the pages of a book on Shakespeare forgeries. This discovery propels him out of his funk, and leads him to another book that may or may not contain handwritten notes from Shakespeare himself. Peter’s mission to prove whether this “holy grail” of the literary world is real or fake puts his life in grave danger, but his obsession with books and Amanda won’t let him walk away.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I thought the pacing of the first half was too slow, but the second half was hang-onto-your-seat exciting. I loved how the story took place in different time periods: the 1990s, during Peter’s investigation; the 1980s, when Peter and Amanda fell in love; and the 17th – 19th century, when we learn the history of the book and photograph in question. This story was obviously well-researched and packed with historical details. It’s clear the author knows his stuff about rare books, Shakespeare scandals, and forgeries. I also loved learning about the book restoration process.
I’d recommend THE BOOKMAN’S TALE to mystery lovers, bibliophiles, and fans of moving – though sad – love stories.
Rating: 3.75 Stars
On a side note, I’ll be signing off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Turkey day tomorrow, then braving the Black Friday sales! We’re planning to put up the Christmas tree and decorations on Saturday. Then probably more shopping on Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving!