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Pauline Montagna was born into an Italian family in Melbourne, Australia. After completing a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University, Pauline joined the Department of Social Security where it was decided that someone with a major in French would be perfect for the Finance section. Fortunately for them, as the daughter of shopkeepers, Pauline had a good head for figures.
Over many years, Pauline pursued her developing accounting skills through a wide variety of workplaces including the Australian film industry which eventually took her to Perth. There she decided to return to university and qualify as a teacher, graduating from Edith Cowan and Murdoch Universities with Graduate Diplomas in Language Studies and Education.
After returning to Melbourne, Pauline continued teaching English as a Second Language while she completed a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.
Pauline has self-published three books, Not Wisely but Too Well, an historical novel about the young William Shakespeare, The Slave, an historical romance set in Medieval Italy and Suburban Terrors, a short story collection. These are available in print and as ebooks from her website at http://paulinemontagna.net
on Feb. 09, 2013 :
I like reading historical fiction about Christopher Marlowe, so I was interested to read this book as I always enjoy seeing how different authors portray Marlowe's character in their books.
I would say I have a very basic knowledge of Shakespeare's life and am a bit more familiar with Marlowe's, and I feel this knowledge helped me get through this book. I didn't get lost with the number of characters because I was reasonably familiar with them already. I can understand that it might be a little daunting for someone with no knowledge of the main players though, but I believe the author gives lots of info on her web site (and probably even reading Shakespeare & Marlowe's Wikipedia articles would give enough background).
I wasn't totally sold on the 'letter-writing' way the story is presented. I think the author was talented enough that she could have dispensed with this altogether and written a regular novel. I would become engrossed in the story, only to be jerked out of it again when a new letter would start. However the writing itself was good and the main characters really came to life for me, and I loved the way Marlowe was depicted!
If you enjoy historical fiction about Marlowe or Shakespeare, this book is well worth a read.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Feb. 09, 2013 :
Just finished the book having been alerted to a free download via a goodreads reading group (Karen Chance Fans-thank you!) I wouldn't have picked it up as I am not a Shakespeare scholar, have never been interested in the issue of authorship (I just enjoy his and Marlowe's plays) and I am only an occasional reader of historical fiction. This was also my first attempt at a full length ebook which may have clouded my judgement. I have to say I struggled with it and was very tempted to give up. Then Marlowe appeared and all was forgiven. I was glad I persevered and would subsequently recommend it. The personal/ emotional element was more convincing in the second half, and I enjoyed the suggestion of how Kyd, Marlowe et al may have worked together. The relationship between Shakespeare and Marlowe and the representation of their characters was credible hence more engaging in the second half, while the social and economic setting took more of a back seat. If you know Shakespeare's plays you might enjoy 'reference spotting' as you read, though this did feel a bit clumsy at times. The links to Montagna's website are fun and informative.
Following two lengthy introductions, the novel is presented in an archaic style as a series of newly discovered letters written by Shakespeare, chronicling events in his early life up to about 1593. Depending on your interest in the early life of Shakespeare, the social setting, the workings of London and provincial playhouses, this may be hard going: the style is dry and understated, people drop in and out of the narrative at an alarming rate and Montagna does little to prepare you before she drops you into 16th C London. I found the only way I could keep up and keep interested was by keeping notes. However from about half way through I was intrigued and genuinely interested. And - as I bonus I learnt how to use notes on my iBooks!
Would I buy any more in the series? Montagna say she has planned 3 more: to be honest I' m not sure how she can beat Marlowe and Shakespeare though I'm willing to give it a try. So a book of two halves for me: perhaps a 1/2* in the first half then a 4/5* in the second half-particularly in relation to Marlowe.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Feb. 07, 2013 :
I loved this. It worked on me, in that funny way you can’t define or account for: I believed in this young Shakespeare, and feel I’ve spent a few days in his presence, with the intimacy of those eyes of his on the cover. And I’m reluctant about first person, which often doesn’t do its job for me, doesn’t bring me close. Not that this is a huge character-study; it’s just a realistic Shakespeare in whom I believed.
I’ve surprised myself with this. I’m keen on Sh, the works, but I haven’t read biography - what biography? I always think – and I haven’t tried biographical fiction, either. I detested the film Shakespeare In Love (possibly unfairly, and I remember nothing).
It’s since I read the Sonnets this year that I have a sense of Shakespeare the person, and an interest, I guess, in the very life-issues that come up here, so no wonder I loved the novel. To my mind, the Sh who wrote the Sonnets was gay or mostly gay – to use our terminology – and that’s that. Those who don’t like it... say the Sonnets aren’t evidence. But how on earth do you write and publish such sonnets in the social context? This novel treats of Marlowe – what on earth he meant to do, or say, when he wrote Edward II for the public stage. It starts to answer questions that I had, and in the novel, alongside Marlowe, Shakespeare is a lover of men.
In the novel their names are written Christofer Marley and Will Shakspere. Because that’s how they were known or written in these early days. And that leads me to talk about the flavour of authenticity you get here. There is enough ‘thou dost’ to have a feel of the old language, but not enough to be in the least difficult. For me, that balance is just right. I like how she sets out speech as in a play - in Shakspere's hand, for this is a novel of letters.
There’s a level of detail that may, in patches, be dull. For instance, I skipped over finances, as I have a severely unfinancial brain. But I’ll take this detail, any day and every day (with reader’s discretion to skip) in order to build up a realism. Which it does.
Realism, too, was what I thought in the story of his marriage to Anne Hathaway. It might have happened exactly like this, only too easily. His family life, or lack of, isn’t made into what it wasn’t but seen for what it more than likely was. In short I admired the honesty, against the temptation to romanticise. Of course he must have had a heart’s commitment. Why? Because he’s Shakespeare, and he wrote what he wrote. The author has speculated on who the focus of his love life is (I won’t tell you, because she hasn’t in the blurb) and that makes for great story – again, I’d say, without too much romance. There’s no explicit sex.
Much else is covered. Theatre life, the politics of theatre, religious conflict. It was a dangerous time for playwrights; Kyd’s put on the rack; other known names sell their quills to dirty politics, or whatever. Our lad Shakspere isn’t as out-there bold or contentious as Marley (we knew that) but he’s on the humane side of every question or controversy (we knew that too).
The frame, where an academic finds his letters, didn’t win me, there at the start; it’s a device, and the novel doesn’t need a device. I even felt I’d have happily dispensed with the letter set-up; I’d take first person Shakespeare without explanation or excuse; but I can see it serves a function.
I got well lost amongst Richards, Johns and Ellens; too frequently I had no idea who these people were. That might be my fault, as I opened this book in casual curiosity, and didn't pay due attention until I discovered I'd love it.
I'll follow, eagerly, into the next instalments of Stuff of Dreams.
(reviewed the day of purchase)