Book Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Shakespeare.

fools-and-mortals-200x307Tudor England.

Political intrigue.

Religious bigotry.

Love triangles.

Sword fights, drunken brawls, and backstabbing enemies.

Hypocrites abound.

The Greatman’s plays come to life.

No one does historical fiction better than Bernard Cornwell. In his latest book, Fools and Mortals, he brings us into the bawdy, robust and dangerous world of London during the Elizabethan era. Rivalries abound. The theater has become a cultural icon. Plays are worth their weight in gold, and people were willing to do anything to obtain a Shakespeare play.

One of Cornwell’s favorite tools is to show you the life of a great man through a person of lower social standing. Hence, the protagonist of this story, Richard Shakespeare, Will’s brother. He leads the reader through the meanderings of a well intentioned, hard working, and kind player. A young man who is seeking nothing more than his own brother’s recognition. Well maybe something more, like success, respect, honor, a warm place to sleep and a hot meal.

Richard is the reader’s entry into the world of the Elizabethan Court. Understanding how these Well-born thought and acted, how political machinations worked during the Tudor period, and how the average person lived day-to-day allows us to enter a long lost world. He throws himself into the center of intrigue, with guile and the assuredness of youth. Cornwell lifts the veil of fantasy with a lot of reality.

Elizabethan England was not a place to show weakness. People needed to be strong, both physically and mentally, to survive. Work was also, not always honest. Kindness was in short supply.  Through Cornwell’s description you almost feel as if you are walking those cobbled streets strewn with garbage, and rampant with Pursuivants. Fear, starvation, and plague was never far from the everyday.

Then into the midsts of the story’s skullduggery, Cornwell fascinatingly intertwines one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays  with the underlying narrative of the novel. The reader gains a glimpse of the play both through the eyes of the audience, well meaning but demanding gentry, along with  the players, whose goal is simply to have a play that brings in people to the Playhouse. Well maybe a part that doesn’t require the actor to always wear skirts, which also takes us into a disturbing subplot.

Moreover we are privy to the real life, and well documented jealousies, wrangling, and the maneuvering for position by the famous and the infamous. Cornwell reminds us of the gossip, the history, the enmity found among those whose lives we still find fascinating, and whose actions and choices still have a lasting impact upon our modern world.

Fools and Mortals is a wonderful, fun book.

 

This book is available in the UK on Oct 19, 2017 and in the US on January 9, 2018.

 

Advertisements

About Elise "Ronan"

#JeSuisJuif #RenegadeJew... Life-hacks, book reviews, essayist...
Gallery | This entry was posted in Book review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s