My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not Wisely but Too Well by Australian author Pauline Montagna is the first in a series of novels based on the life of William Shakespeare. As a fan of Shakespeare, and as someone who has had the privilege to study his work in the past, I was most intrigued to read this fictional account of the bard's early life.
The story is relayed to the reader through letters written by Shakespeare to his lover. Whilst this format may be unconventional, Montagna has meticulously put the letters together so that they flow effortlessly from one to another and read less like correspondence and more like a traditional novel. In addition, the missives are in a style that compliments Shakespeare's own without making it a challenge to read or understand. There are just enough thou dost's to give the work an authentic sense of history and the element of realism that the author was aiming for.
However, I was not convinced by the premise that the letters were discovered by an academic and sent to the author for safe keeping at the beginning of the novel. The sense of intrigue in their discovery and the threat of danger in possessing them lacked the sense of realism that is prevalent throughout the rest of the novel. I feel it is a device that would have been best left out.
Having said that, I do feel that this shouldn't distract from the fact that Not Wisely but Too Well is an interesting interpretation of William Shakespeare's life, one that hasn't before been told quite so precisely as Montagna tells it, and one that would appeal to many fans of historical fiction.
Thank you to the author for inviting me to read and review this novel.