Welcome to the Scholar's Blog Book Discussion Group
And to its first discussion. This month, we're discussion Susan Cooper's timeslip tale, King of Shadows. The title refers to these lines of Shakespeare's:
"This is thy negligence. Still thou mistak'st,
Or else commit'st thy knaveries wilfully."
"Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook."
- Oberon and Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III Scene 3
And as you will know, if you've already read the book, the tale centres on two performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream, that are performed 400 years apart.
Here are some of the things I love about this book:
1 - The opening: "Tag." - just one word and yet my attention was snagged and I found myself rushing into the tale...
2 - Nat's introduction to Will Shakespeare:
"'Greet Master Shakespeare, boy.'
It was as if he'd said, 'Say hello to God.'"
If you're a big fan of Shakespeare (or any other author), you know exactly what Nat means by this comment.
3 - The way the time-travel element is handled, with Nat asleep, so the mystery of how it happens is preserved. You don't have to worry about the science, you can just enjoy the magic of the story.
4 - The use that Cooper makes of Shakespeare's own words, with the quotations both from the plays and the Sonnets. I've long known and loved
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
the last two lines of the latter are ones that Nat mentions after Arby gives him a copy of the Complete Sonnets (chapter 19).
5 - The way the tale invites you to see or read A Midsummer Night's Dream for yourself. I hadn't seen it before reading this book, but I rented a DVD of Michael Hoffman's movie (with Stanley Tucci playing "Puck"). And I'm quite sure I got more out of the story, having read Cooper's book first.
So what do you like about this book ? What don't you like or what do you feel doesn't work ?
Oh and if anyone is interested, the carol that the Guy's Hospital nurse sings to 16th century Nathan Field in chapter 9, is the Coventry Carol, and you can find the words here and the music here.