The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett (♦♦♦)
A Novel of Obsession
I love books not only because I’m a reader. I practically grew up in a library, so this kind of books holds a special place in my heart. I was hoping The Bookman’s Tale was going to become a new favorite, instead I was somewhat disappointed.
Peter Byerly lost his wife Amanda to cancer nine months ago. Reeling with grief, he decided to escape North Carolina and move to a cottage in the English countryside with the prospect of restarting his career as an antiquarian bookseller.
On one of his book hunting expeditions, Peter finds a portrait by an unknown Victorian painter with the image of Amanda. Obsessed, Peter starts tracking down the elusive painter, which leads him to a manuscript that might revolutionize the literary world if it is real, for it reveals the true identity of Shakespeare.
Running against the clock, Peter finds himself in the midst of a family feud going back for at least two centuries, and he may very well lose his own life for a killer is intent on keeping a secret from being revealed.
I bought The Bookman’s Tale because it promised a story resembling The Shadow of the Wind and Mr.Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, both of which I loved. While The Shadow of the Wind was about a book within a book and a gothic mystery, Mr. Penumbra’s… was a sparkly tale about the search for information in the age of technology. The underlying theme in all three books is the love of books and how important it is to preserve them. While I loved the latter two, I didn’t much care about The Bookman’s Tale; I found it erudite yet dry.
The Bookman’s Tale, written by former antiquarian bookseller Charlie Lovett, conveys its message about how profoundly important and cool would be to settle the controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s identity. There’s love, wealth and loss thereof, and murder to spice up the plot, but somehow I found it so unconvincing…I don’t mean to say that the book didn’t have its good moments; it did. I smiled at times with the sweetness and awkwardness of the love affair between Peter and Amanda, and the mystery was good too, but there were too many characters and the book jumped back and forth in time, different years as well, as the provenance of the manuscript was tracked down.