Review :: The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett

Bookman's TaleA mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love
Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.
Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays. – Goodreads

As an avid reader and faithful book-lover, I tend to enjoy reading books about books; The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett  is a wonderful example of this. I had a strong feeling before I even picked it up that I was going to enjoy this tale, and I was not far off the mark. The Bookman’s Tale is a fabulous book for a bibliophile – I mean, what else could you ask for? Libraries, bookselling, rare books, book binding, and Shakespeare to boot. What book lover can turn her nose up at that?

He closed his eyes for a moment, imagining the cocoon of books shielding him from all danger, inhaling deeply that familiar scent of books and leather and dust and words.

Is that not how you feel the instant you step into the library (or a used bookstore)? Lovett truly is one bibliophile speaking to another’s heart.

The Bookman’s Tale is a combination of a love story, a mystery, and a thriller – somewhat of a literary-themed The Da Vinci Code, if you will. Lovett weaves together three layers in his story, revealed via three timelines: 1995 (which is the present day in terms of the book), the 1980’s (when Peter Byerly met, wooed, and married his wife), and the 16th century (ah, this is where Shakespeare comes in!). The author marries these quite well, and it makes for a fascinating and truly engrossing tale. I will say that it took me a bit to get into the groove of all of the switching back-and-forth between time periods; I’m not sure that all of it was truly necessary or even beneficial to the story. The only other drawback for me was the romance between Peter and his wife-to-be. It seemed very precious and forced, and there was a lot sexual innuendo that, again, seemed unnecessary and didn’t quite fit in.

All in all, The Bookman’s Tale is a haunting and magical tale of love, love lost, books and those who love them, and of course… the mystery of Shakespeare – did he or didn’t he (author his own works)? I would definitely read this book again, and I will certainly recommend it to friends and family – and to you, as well, of course!

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Penguin Group/Viking {NetGalley}

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