Monday, February 27, 2012

The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson

Book Jacket

En route to the Americas in 1609, Elizabeth Persons, a young servant girl, sees her blinding headache as an ominous sign.  Sure enough, a hurricane during the final leg of their journey tosses the ill-fated Sea Venture and its one hundred and fifty passengers and crew onto the dreaded shores of the Bermudas, the rumored home of evil spirits and dangerous natives.  In the months that pass--time marked by grave hardship, mutiny, adventure, danger...and a blossoming love between Elizabeth and the wrecked ship's young cook--she despairs of their ever being rescued.  But she finds hope and strength in a remarkable new friendship, forming a fast bond with the Sea Venture's historian, a poet traveling under the name of William Strachey.  But Will is more than he seems.  To many back home in England, he is known by a different name: Shakespeare.  And he sees in their great shared travails the makings of a magical, truly transcendent work of theater.


Ugh.  This was the exact opposite of my cup of tea.  In fact, I only finished it to prove that I could read something outside my normal boundaries.  I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, and definitely not stories that take their historical protagonists outside of real life's timeline (unless it's cracktastic fun).  And even less so when Shakespeare's genius is attributed to random people.  I'm sorry, but he did not crash land on an island in the Bermudas and get told the plot of The Tempest by a girl named Elizabeth/Miranda.

Alongside the central monstrosity, there is the mess that is Elizabeth/Miranda.  She has a truly tragic past, and real reasons for being neurotic in general and with romance in specific.  I wish they had explored that more fully instead of melting into a traditional romance plot.  I just can't believe a story that goes "I hate men for very believable and traumatizing reasons!  Even you!  Maybe not?  Okay, let's go all the way tonight!"

It doesn't help that Thomas was initially described as being two heads taller than a normal-sized man, so I kept picturing this giant with garbage-lid hands.  Their love scenes were therefore hilarious rather than tender.

The ending was supposed to be sad, but instead I gaped, because it was so obviously a plot device to get Elizabeth/Miranda where she next needed to be. 

This book was everything I hate. 

One out of five stars.

Release Date:  September 2010
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL JOH

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