Review: The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman by Jackie French

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman by Jackie French
Released: 1st August 2016
Published by: HarperCollins
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Source: Bought
Pages: 288
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
THE DIARY OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, GENTLEMAN is part comedy, part love story, the threads of Shakespeare's life drawn from his plays. Could the world's greatest writer truly put down his pen forever to become a gentleman?

He was a boy who escaped small town life to be the most acclaimed playwright of the land. A lover whose sonnets still sing 400 years later; a glover's apprentice who became a gentleman. But was he happy with his new riches? Who was the woman he truly loved?

The world knows the name of William Shakespeare. This book reveals the man - lover, son and poet. Based on new documentary evidence, as well as textual examination of his plays, this fascinating book gives a tantalising glimpse at what might have been: the other hands that helped craft those plays, the secrets that must ever be hidden but - just possibly - may now be told.Ages 12+

Who was this man who enraptured audiences with a single sentence? How did he come to dazzle with such wit and mastery of language? Why have his plays endured and been celebrated for generations?

Who was William Shakespeare?

These are the questions which Jackie French has done so well in attempting to answer with this novel. Told through a series of diary entries from 1615-1616, we are given a glimpse into the person who is perhaps the most prominent figure in the history of English literature. This book is a true eye-opener, one which definitely brings Shakespeare into a different light - not just as a name on a page, but a living being with an eventful story to tell.

Few men have had so many lives as I. I have been glove-maker, player, playwright, gentleman. I have played kings and ghosts. I have been a lover too, on the stage and off of it.

We tend to focus so much on his works, analysing each line of a play and delving into the motivation of its characters - but often skim over the life of the playwright himself. What I love about this work is that Jackie French has artfully woven in segments of Hamlet, and his sonnets for example, into a story which is personal and compelling. There is insight provided into how those famous lines and phrases came to be, through his own experiences and journey towards forging the future he truly wanted. Background into his childhood, first love and family settlement enrich this tale in a way which is accessible to teens, and anyone with an interest in what made this legendary individual so renowned.

But words can no more leave me than stars can sail from the sky. Words whisper wicked wit through dinner's gossip that Stratford's fools would blink at. words dance my firefly mind to blazes every night, come laughing at me in my dreams, tempting me like a mistress who powders her bosom white. I can no more live without my words than forgo my meat and bread.

The writing style itself lends well to the historical period which the book is set in, making everything more realistic. French has evoked Shaksepeare's voice with her own wordsmith artistry, where each page will draw you in and make you empathise with the characters. The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman is definitely an alluring portal into the past, told in a manner which couldn't be more fitting.

So many lives. So many words. Kings die, but words upon the page live after those who write them. 


The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman is perfect for Jackie French fans who have read her other similar titles I Am Juliet and Ophelia: Queen of Denmark. It is a novel which reveals much about Shakespeare you probably didn't know, but will most certainly be fascinated by.

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