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The Tutor: A Novel by Andrea Chapin

The Tutor: A Novel

by Andrea Chapin

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537221,808 (3.75)5



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Captivating. Shakespeare's first muse is imagined as an educated, somewhat independent, relation-wealthy woman. Her emotional turmoil at falling in love and then the resounding destruction of her heart and very sanity as that love is rejected rings frighteningly true. Woven with historical facts, people, places, and politics, this was a very enjoyable read. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
My love for Shakespeare did not begin with my first exposure to his work in 9th grade. Quite the opposite as fact, reading Julius Caesar in class put me off the bard. In 12th grade it all changed. Mr. Dennison was one of those rare teachers who not only teach but inspire. He taught us Macbeth. He also created my ongoing love affair with Shakespeare. I never had a class with Shakespeare beyond high school. I feel this background is necessary to explain that I am not a Shakespeare expert and cannot hold my own in any type of academic conversation. But that does not change my love for Shakespeare.

In The Tutor, Andrea Chapin has created a world where Shakespeare lives. It is a rich world with an environment you can touch, smell and see. The characters are just as well created as the environment. The two main characters, William Shakespeare and Katherine, are well written. They are well rounded, not just two dimensional. The other characters are well written also. None seem like window dressing. Shakespeare was written as a man not the god of literature he has become. He was captivating, intriguing and, like most men, aggravating. It was easy to envision him charming everyone. I liked Katherine immensely. She is someone who I could be friends with. She did not need a man to be complete, she was strong enough in who she was.

The story was intriguing. There was a very good sense of the times especially concerning the religious issues. The author did a very good job of showing how society was in a state of flux at the time on all levels. I like the way the book ended. If you have read my other book reviews, you know I do not discuss plot points but let me just say this is one book when finished leaves you satisfied and content with the time you spent in the world the author created. ( )
  nhalliwell | Nov 13, 2016 |
Summary: Katherine De L'isle is a young widow who has lived with her Uncle Edward's family since she was orphaned at a young age, and returned there after the death of her elderly husband. Katherine's well-educated, spirited, and free to spend her time caring for her younger cousins or engaging in her favorite past-time, reading. But in 1590, the world at Lufanwal Hall is turned upside down. The family, whose Catholicism has been outlawed by Queen Elizabeth, is forced to send Sir Edward abroad for his own safety, and without his calming presence, things start to disintegrate. However, Katherine only barely notices; she's become enamored of the new tutor, a glove-maker's son from Stratford, relatively uneducated but with a quick wit and a ready pen from which pours forth some of the most engaging poetry she's ever heard. Will seems drawn to her as much as she is drawn to him, calling her his muse as they work together on a poem of Venus and Adonis, but how much can she trust this relative stranger in their midst, and how well does his honeyed tongue match what's actually in his heart?

Review: I consider myself a bit of a Shakespeare buff - I love his plays, and I love reading about him and his works, both fiction and non-fiction. So when the front cover of this book has the blurb "To write about love, first Shakespeare must fall in love…", I figured I would love this book. Unfortunately, though, I wound up being somewhat disappointed, primarily because I don't think that blurb at all describes what the book's about. Shakespeare's works still resonate today because of his powerful understanding of human behavior and emotion, as much as because of the poetry of his writing, so I was hoping this book would provide a depiction of how an otherwise average young man came by such extraordinary insight. But it doesn't, and so I was left feeling a pretty strong disconnect, and not feeling as though this depiction of Shakespeare could have possibly written the plays that convey such a depth of feeling. (I'd like to note that this is not just a case of hero-worship being slighted - or at least I don't think it is. I don't mind the portrayal of Shakespeare as less-than-perfect, and I'd argue that this version of his character is actually quite believable. What bothered me was the whole "Shakespeare in Love" romance vibe the book's marketing tries to give off, when that was not at all what was delivered by the story itself.)

Kate's story is an interesting one, and I'm glad she was the primary focus of the book. However, the writing style didn't always work in its favor. There were a number of sub-plots and themes that are brought up, forgot entirely while Kate moons over Will for the bulk of the book, and then either never come up again or are resolved so quickly as to feel like afterthoughts. The book starts out with the murder of the family priest, there's the whole Catholic vs. Protestant angle, there's some poisonings, there's household and family drama, there's a profusion of secondary and tertiary characters that are mostly underdeveloped, there's a strange scene featuring two unnamed men kissing on a rooftop, there's a prodigal son who returns late in the book to much fanfare but relatively little effect, and quite a lot of it is left unresolved, or at best, hastily wrapped up. The writing also didn't feel entirely smooth - largely it was fine, but there were some passages that felt like they were only there to show off some detail that Chapin had learned about life in the late sixteenth century, rather than being organically incorporated into the story.

I know that I sound like I'm coming down hard on this book, but the truth is, I did enjoy reading it. Katherine's a good protagonist, the story moves along briskly, and it served very well for engaging escapist vacation reading. It's just that I was hoping to be wowed by it, so when it turned out to only be good, not great, it was kind of a let down. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It's certainly a different take on Shakespeare than I'd read before, so for that reason it might be worth checking out for other Shakespeare fans. If what you're after is Shakespeare in Love, however, I'd recommend something more along the lines of Mistress Shakespeare (or re-watching the movie, which is what I intend to do.) ( )
  fyrefly98 | Jul 24, 2015 |
A novelization of William Shakespeare's early career and a woman who served as his muse. Katharine, a Catholic widow in 1590s Protestant England, lives a quiet but precarious life with her relatives who are under threat for their religious beliefs. Will Shakespeare is the tutor hired for the household's children, but he turns out to be a somewhat shady character who likely shouldn't be educating children at all (as several characters remark in the novel). I enjoyed this novel for the characterization of Shakespeare (who is certainly not a hero in this tale!) and for Katharine's realizations about love. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Mar 12, 2015 |
Katherine de L'Isle is a young widow living at her uncle's manor, Lufanwal Hall in 1590 under Queen Elizabeth's rule. As a Catholic family, they have found themselves under constant scrutiny. When their family priest disguised as schoolmaster is found dead, their fears intensify. The schoolmaster is replaced with a happy-go-lucky young man named William Shakespeare. Katherine is not all impressed with the new tutor at first, but she becomes more impressed with Will as they begin to trade writings. Eventually Katherine's admiration turns into something more, but her feelings may not be reciprocated by Will.

I had a hard time getting into this book, and usually I love pretty much anything Elizabethan. I did not really feel anything for Katherine, she felt like she was just an educated woman with a pretty face. However, I was intrigued by the fictionalized inspiration for Venus and Adonis that Katherine's character is a muse for. I felt a bigger pull towards Shakespeare's character as he is written in The Tutor, he is characterized as arrogant, philandering and carefree, an interesting take on a well known man. The romance in the book from Katherine's point of view was a little much for me, she seemed to switch on and off from love to hate and obsession too quickly. Overall, this was an ok historical novel that moved quickly and was entertaining.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. ( )
  Mishker | Feb 5, 2015 |
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Flies were at him, but the larger animals hadn't gotten there yet.
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A "novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together"--Amazon.com.

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