Chasing Shakespeares

by Sarah Smith

Atria Books, June, 2003.
Hardcover, 337 pages.
ISBN: 0743464826

Chasing Shakespeares by Sarah Smith Rarely does one come across a book that in which each chapter is complete enjoyment and fascination. Chasing Shakespeare is a feast set before the reader. It serves up an almost unending amount of little known, but up to date, details about that elusive period that produced Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible. There are many mysteries about Shakespeare, and yet his sparsely documented life continues to fascinate us. After 400 years, his phrases still thunder and delight, for no collection of literature in English has been so incisive in its wisdom of humanity or so knowledgeable in the details of life. The plays, poems and sonnets of Shakespeare are beloved, not only by those who speak English, but also by those who speak German and Dutch.

Chasing Shakespeare follows two graduate students, specialists in Shakespeare, who are experiencing that culminating problem of graduate school life: finding a really good subject for the dissertation, a subject that will make a career. Never has the search for a subject of a dissertation been as fascinating as the search that Joe Roper, son of a Vermont hardware store owner, and Posy Gould, very rich and very hip, begin. Joe Roper has learned of the fascination of literary scholarship from a beloved professor. Posy Gould is simply looking to make a name for herself in the academic world. While cataloguing a collection of letters, Joe finds a suspicious letter in an archival envelope that purports to be a confession signed by Shakespeare that the Earl of Oxford had written the works attributed to him. Joe Roper believes that the letter is a forgery, but Posy Gould is sure that it is real. Together they travel to London to find out the truth.

Not only is Chasing Shakespeare full of fascinating facts, but the two main characters are very engaging. The author brings Posy Gould to life. Every statement Posy makes ends with a question mark. The reader can delight in the hilariously avant garde outfits she wears, as well as in her hip speech. Joe Roper, the relentless researcher, is as solid and sincere as Posy is impulsive and emotional.

Sarah Smith has written a thoroughly enjoyable mystery that will carry the reader through the many paths that must be followed in the search for truth. She has done a masterful job of showing why literary research can be endlessly fascinating, and how it can lead where one does not necessarily want to go.

--Sarah Reaves White

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This review was published in the September-October, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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