Brought to you by OBS reviewer Dawn
A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.
Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.
Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.
Peter Byerly is a bookseller who might as well be a walking talking zombie. He is crippled with grief over the loss of his wife, Amanda. Peter is not a social person; that is an understatement. He would rather be with his books than with people. I understand perfectly as I’d rather be alone with my books. Amanda is the only woman who has gotten through to the extremely introverted Peter. She understands him, accepts him. He is lost without her.
Peter loves books. He loves the smell, the weight. He is literally obsessed with books. After Amanda’s death he breaks down. When he finally does go back into a bookstore, he is astonished to find a very old watercolor portrait who looks exactly like Amanda. He is shocked but it wakes him up. Seeing the portrait pushes him back into the land of the living. He is determined to solve the mystery of the watercolor, the initials of the painter B.B.
I enjoyed getting to know a younger Peter as he goes through college and meets Amanda. I journeyed with Peter as he begins to live life again; to get back into selling books. Peter is contacted by a man who wants to sell some of his collection. While sorting through the material, Peter finds “the holy grail” so to speak but he’s not sure it is real. He throws himself into research in an attempt to either prove it is real, or it is not. Peter steps out of his comfort zone as he searches for answers. There are times he is just plain awkward with people especially Liz. I felt his pain as he tried to be social and it just didn’t work. He says some ridiculously funny but offensive things. He is not mean, he is just socially inept.
The Bookman’s Tale jumps back and forth in time. I enjoyed the changing points of view. I would be in Peter’s head, then I would be with Shakespeare’s contemporaries. I felt like I was in the room with these amazingly talented men. The adventure of it is intoxicating. Peter wants to figure out where the book has been, who has had it over the years. Peter’s excitement is palpable as he gets closer to the truth but it puts him in danger. I was worried for him a few times. It is like a twisted game of hide and seek, except it is not a game.
The page-turning suspense kept my mind locked on the book. Sadly, I had to work in between reading The Bookman’s Tale. I stayed up late to finish it; I just could not wait to know how it turned out.
I received quite the education on forgery. I’m pretty confident I could forge something after reading this book. It is a captivating process but the motives are more interesting.
Some may find the book dry. You may read the cover and assume it sounds boring. I disagree; The Bookman’s Tale is engrossing even fascinating. I think the book appeals across the board. It is the perfect gift for your husband/father/brother. Women will enjoy it as well.If you have aspirations of becoming a playwright, this book is your dream come true. It’s that good!!!
My only complaint (and it does not reflect on the author at all) was Liz. As much as I want Peter to be happy, nothing can come close to what he had with Amanda. They were truly perfect for one another. I am a hopeless romantic. I would rather be alone than accept anything less.
You must read this book. The Bookman’s Tale is one of the best books I’ve read thus far in 2013!