Saturday, June 10, 2006

Shakespeare's Secret - Elise Broach

Elise Broach's book, Shakespeare's Secret, is a great contemporary mystery novel with an historical element. I found the interweaving of Hero's everyday life, with the misery of always being teased when she starts a new school, and the solving of the mystery of just where Mr Murphy hid the diamond from his wife's heirloom necklace to be well done. I also liked the way that the finding of the diamond coincided with Mrs Roth's discovery that Danny, the son of the local policeman and the boy who does yard work for her, is actually her grandson. Hero's gradual acceptance of her identity as the girl with the "weird" Shakespearean name, who is honourable like her namesake, is convincing. She slowly (and somewhat reluctantly on occasion) realises that people will like her if she gives them a chance: it's Danny who notices that Hero walks around looking like she expects everyone to pick on her, which then encourages people to do so. He tells her (in a roundabout manner) that she needs to have a little more confidence in herself and then people will come to like her; as he says, Hero's sister Beatrice expects people to like her, and they do, and this is the key to Beatrice's apparently instant popularity at each new school they attend.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was Broach's painstaking historical research and the way it was conveyed to readers in a not-too-didactic manner. She makes a good case for the "real Shakespeare" being the Earl of Oxford, rather than the man from Stratford, but in the end (as Hero astutely notes), it doesn't really matter who the author was, the plays are still going to be watched, read and discussed for generations to come.

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