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Fools and Mortals - Book Review

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by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (subscribe)
Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at:
Published November 22nd 2017
The bard as you've never seen him
Bernard Cornwell is best known as the author of the Richard Sharpe series of Napoleonic novels, but is much, much more than that. His skills as a novelist and historical fiction writer range far and wide from Napoleonic Europe to Saxon England, Civil War America and purely modern thrillers.

Inspired as a child by the Hornblower naval Napoleonic War novels of C S Forrester, he wondered why there were no land-based equivalents of Wellington's army and the Peninsular War. Adopting the notion, 'Well, if there aren't any I'll write my own.' The first Richard Sharpe novel was published in 1981 when Cornwell was 36.

An almost instant success he gave up teaching and his career as head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland and began to write full time, fortunately for us. His writing is professional, smooth, exciting and incredibly well-researched.

Fools and Mortals, Bernard Cornwell, William Shakespeare, Richard Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Bernard Cornwell (Photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The thrillers all have a ocean-going sailing background based firmly in his own experience sailing his Cornish Crabber Royalist.

And now, some 30 million sales later we have Fools and Mortals, about William Shakespeare's younger brother Richard and his career in the theatre world of Elizabethean London.

fools and Mortals, Bernard Cornwell, William Shakespeare, Richard Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Shakespeare (Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

While Cornwell's research is always immaculate this goes well beyond research, either he has been an actor, or has spent so much time with actors that he has absorbed how we feel about our craft.

The book, while ostensibly a conventional thriller set in historic times, is really a love letter to the stage, acting and Shakespeare in an entirely human portrait that shimmers and shines.

William did have a younger brother Richard (also his grandfather's name) who was the age given in Fools and Mortals very little is known about him, giving Cornwell a superb opportunity for speculation.

I loved this book on so many levels - Shakespeare, Elizabethan milieu, the love story, the brotherly rivalry, the intimacy of acting and the seamless historical background. I read it at one sitting, and I would be surprised if you don't too.

Very Highly Recommended Indeed.

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Why? A love letter to the theatre
Cost: RRP $16 (Paperback)
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