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Friday, April 22, 2016

Just Finished Reading... The Fool's Girl by Celia Rees

Ooh, what a fun idea! A sequel to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night! I've come across other Shakespeare themed books before - for example, there was one by Sophie Masson, Cold Iron, set in Elizabethan England, with fairy characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream wandering through it. The novel itself was based on a fairytale, Tattercoats, the English version of Cinderella.

But this one was a straight sequel. You know how the characters get married and presumably live happily ever after? And Malvolio stomps off snarling, "I'll be avenged upon the pack of you!" or some  such line?

Well, it's not quite that simple. For starters, Sebastian, Viola's twin, isn't happy about merely getting to marry a beautiful, wealthy countess while his sister gets to be a duchess. And it's implied that Olivia cares more about the former Cesario than she does about her husband anyway. Dreadful things happen in Illyria, climaxing in an invasion by Venice, assisted by Sebastian and the theft of the dukedom's most precious possession, a relic of the Magi's gifts, which involves Malvolio...

All that is told in flashbacks in 1601, when Violetta, Viola's teenage daughter, and the clown Feste turn up in London, where Shakespeare is popular, but still having headaches with bad performances and  the other problems that are part of the actor/playwright/manager's life. Violetta and Feste are chasing the relic, which they have tracked down to London, and tell their story to him, in hopes that he can help. Without the relic, Violetta doesn't feel she can return to claim the dukedom rightfully hers after her parents' deaths.

Personally, I'm not sure why Sebastian should become a villain, although you do have to wonder about a young man who is perfectly happy to marry a girl he's never seen or spoken to, who drags him off the street and to a priest. (And the girl, "Whoops! Not Cesario. Oh, well." No wonder, in this novel, she is so attached to Viola, the person she actually fell in love with). But then, you never really learn much about Sebastian anyway, so who knows?

I did think there was a bit of waste in the character Tod, one of the members of Shakespeare's company who plays female roles. I was expecting him to play a significant role, then he - didn't. Really, he could have been left out without any damage to the story.

Still, this was an entertaining read which gave me a lot of pleasure as I read it over a day in bed while suffering a nasty cold the other day. And Shakespeare was just Will, a guy with a living to make, a father with a girl about Violetta's age, who wants to help her because he'd want someone to help his daughter.  We do sometimes forget that the Immortal Bard was just a man with a living to make and a family back in Stratford.

And by the way, today's Google Doodle celebrates him. Happy 452nd birthday, Will!


Lexa Cain said...

I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the book. Happy (belated) Birthday to Shakespeare!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Lexa!