Title: Interred with Their Bones
Author: Jennifer Lee Carrell
Genre: Historical fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Purchase Price: $5.38 (hardback, bargain book)
After careful thought, I have come to the conclusion that there is indeed such a thing as the Curse of the Bargain Bin Book.
Picture this: you walk into your bookstore of choice. Somewhere off to the side there is a bin or table of books, all labeled “Bargain.” Some are paperbacks, and you’re browsing, not totally interested, and suddenly there it is: a hardback novel with an intriguing cover and/or title. Hardbacks are often expensive, so it seems a stroke of good fortune that you have managed to find one for under eight books.
To quote a certain well-known character of the sci-fi genre, “It’s a trap!”
Unless it’s a reprinting (aka a second or third edition) of a title you already know and love, chances are that hardback title you’ve just picked up will be about as interesting as watching mold grow. I’m not saying that exceptions never occur, but the Bargain Book table is probably something I’ll be avoiding in the future–and that’s a pity, because I love getting a great deal on a good book.
It’s probably no surprise to any relatively well-read reader that William Shakespeare is a bit of an enigma. We know very little about his life, and that has led some people to wonder how the son of a poor laborer could have learned to write so well, and on such high-falutin’ topics as politics, social commentary, the state of the aristocracy, etc. So it’s also no real surprise that conspiracy theorists abound.
Enter Kate Stanely, a Shakespearean scholar from America who has been selected to direct a production of Hamlet at the Globe (a reproduction of the original Globe, which was where Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed). Out of the blue her mentor, Roz, shows up at a rehearsal with a small box. “I’ve found something,” she says.
Things begin to heat up (literally) when the theatre is set ablaze, and Roz is found dead inside. Unwilling to let her mentor’s death pass as an accident, Kate decides to take on the quest that Roz has given her. But to whence will it lead?
To intrigue, murder, and a conspiracy that stretches back over 400 years.
I tried to like this book, I really did try. I tried to blame my lack of interest on the distracting things going on in real life, but in the end, the book was a lot of hype for a whole not of nothing. It was cool to read about some of the theories surrounding Shakespeare, and a couple of the plot twists were unexpected and cool, but mostly it was a lot of history. And normally I love history, but I don’t know nearly as much about British authors, and the book tended to read a bit like a dry textbook.
Basically Interred with Their Bones feels like a poor man’s rewriting of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. A prominent historical figure whose story has been gotten all wrong, people who are trying to learn “the truth,” and people who are trying to keep “the truth” hidden.
I do appreciate the fact that Carrell kills off the one character that knows whether or not Shakespeare was actually the author of all of the marvelous plays to which his name is attached. Sometimes wondering about a mystery, and the quest to learn the truth, is more valuable than the actual truth.
Shakespeare is an enigma. His plays and poetry altered playwriting and acting forever, and I would love to believe that that incredible genius could come from anyone, not just a group of snooty authors and aristocrats who conspired against their enemies. I prefer Shakespeare just the way he is: unknown, unknowable, often crass, and incredibly gifted.
I was feeling bad about my not enjoying this novel when I saw on the Barnes and Noble website that people who bought and enjoyed this book also bought and enjoyed Mosse’s Sepulchre, a book I read and didn’t like. So I don’t feel so bad now.
Carrell’s writing is excellent, and her knowledge of Shakespeare and history is extensive. But that’s not enough to make me enjoy Interred with Their Bones. Here’s hoping that the next Shakespearean mystery I read is more enjoyable.
Flow My Tears (author: John Dowland, 1600)
” ‘You don’t imagine that I keep my own house, do you?’
I began to laugh. ‘You live in another century, Sir Henry.’
‘So does everyone who can afford it,’ he said airily, finishing off the cognac.” (p. 51)
“Most tales fade as they end, but the great stories are different. I had dreamed of loving like Juliet, and of being loved like Cleopatra. Of drinking life to the lees like Falstaff, and fighting like Henry V. If I had come no closer than a far-off echo now and then, it was not for lack of trying. And not without reward: Even those faint echoes had carved my life into something deeper and richer than I could ever have imagined on my own. In Shakespeare, I had seen what it was to love and to laugh, to hate, betray, and even to kill: all that is brightest and darkest in the human soul.” (p. 131)