Posted By Claire on June 7, 2015
I’ve been having a bit of a historical fiction fest recently and I have to say that there some magical novels coming out at the moment. You’d think that there was nothing new to write, but the Tudor period is still providing plenty of inspiration for novelists.
Andrea Chapin’s novel The Tutor is set in the 1590s and the protagonist is Katharine, a young widow who is living with her relatives, the De L’Isle family, at Lufanwal Hall in Lancashire. The novel opens with the discovery of the body of the family’s priest, Father Daulton. These are dangerous times for Catholics like the De L’Isles and their priest has had to pose as a schoolmaster. Harbouring a priest can cost people their lives. This opening may lead you to believe that the book is a murder mystery or thriller, but it’s actually not at all. The novel is more about Katharine and her relationship with the new tutor, a certain Will Shakespeare.
Katharine becomes Will’s muse and the person he trusts to give him feedback on his work. But, of course, their relationship grows. He is far from home, his wife and children, and Katharine is an attractive, intelligent woman who also has a literary gift. They understand each other and they are drawn to each other. Will is a fascinating character and I couldn’t help falling for him too! I loved Katharine’s character too. Being a widow, she has more control of her life and she lives it on her terms. She is strong but real. I won’t ruin the story by telling you what becomes of her and Will, but I loved the ending Chapin gave Katharine.
Now I’ve made it sound more like a romance, but it’s not that either and it would be doing it a real injustice to describe it as such. The blurb on the back of my advance review copy calls it “a vivid tale of desire and deception, loyalty and betrayal, and the seductive power of language” and that sums it up so well. It’s a riveting read and although Katharine is the main character, the reader comes to care about a number of characters who are battling their own demons and trying to survive in a troubled and dangerous time. There are so many threads/themes running through the story and I loved how they were woven together.
So, if you’re looking for a summer historical read to get lost in, then do grab a copy of this novel.
The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when the family’s priest, who had been performing Catholic services in secret, is found murdered. Faced with threats of imprisonment and death, Sir Edward is forced to flee the country, leaving Katharine adrift in a household rife with turmoil.
At this time of unrest, a new schoolmaster arrives from Stratford, a man named William Shakespeare. Coarse, quick-witted, and brazenly flirtatious, Shakespeare swiftly disrupts what fragile peace there is left at Lufanwal. Katharine is at first appalled by the boldness of this new tutor, but when she learns he is a poet, and one of talent, things between them begin to shift, and soon Katharine finds herself drawn into Shakespeare’s verse, and his life, in ways that will change her forever.
Inventive and absorbing, The Tutor is a masterful work of historical fiction, casting Shakespeare in a light we’ve never seen.
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books (February 5, 2015) in the US, Penguin (26 Mar. 2015) in the UK.
ISBN-10: 1594632545, UK 024196816X
ISBN-13: 978-1594632549, UK 978-0241968161
Available from Amazon US, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.