Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson, 4.5 stars

The Gentleman Poet is as engaging as the author herself. Kathryn Johnson came to our book club to share her passion for this lovely novel, and she was interesting and enthusiastic. I liked the novel the first time, but even more after listening to her (thus, the 4.5). She has written over 40 novels under various pen names, but this is the first she published under her own name. Although marketed as adult historical fiction, the book has also been embraced by the young adult audience winning the 2011 Booksellers' Best Award for young adult fiction.

Kathryn Johnson became intrigued with a gap in Shakespeare history, a time when Shakespeare is unaccounted for in England and a man named William Strachey survived a shipwreck. His accounts of the shipwreck are eerily similar to Shakespeare's The Tempest, the last play Shakespeare wrote alone according to historians. Coincidence? Not in the author's eyes.

The story centers on Elizabeth Persons, a young servant girl traveling on a ship heading to Jamestown and the New World. She has already survived family tragedy, and now finds herself shipwrecked in the Bermudas with an overbearing mistress and people frantically trying to survive.

She is immediately drawn to a reclusive poet named Will. He spends his days journaling the passengers' attempts at survival. He senses a story in Elizabeth and takes her under his wing. His concern for her leads to matchmaking and a desire to see Elizabeth end up with Thomas, the ship's cook. Elizabeth soon discovers two things: Will is actually William Shakespeare, and she's worthy of love and Thomas. Through her relationship with both men, Elizabeth finds herself and becomes determined to control her own destiny.

Don't let the title fool you. This is a love story and tale of survival, the character of William Shakespeare serves only as a catalyst. Historical fiction, romance and young adult readers will all enjoy the tale. Shakespeare fans, too, as they will appreciate the reference to his works. Each chapter begins with a quote from one of his plays.

There are moments of laughter, tears, fear and applause. Women everywhere will celebrate Elizabeth, a strong woman before her time, one that cannot be held down by circumstance. You will laugh with her, cheer for her and cry with her in the end.

For more information, please visit Kathryn Johnson's site.


The Writing Well said...

Hmmm, this book sounds like a wonderful read. I will look for it. I gave you an award on my blog. Please come and accept. Will visit back soon;)

Kathryn Johnson said...

How often do you wish you could be three or four people and in as many places at the same time? That's me. So that I could keep writing and still visit lots of book clubs! I'm able to reach out to so few, due to time and travel expenses...but it was a joy to drop in on Tia's club and I wouldn't have missed it for anything! Cheers, ladies! Kathryn Johnson

Tia Bach said...

We loved having you, Kathryn. Listening to your passion made a book I enjoyed even sweeter. Thanks again for coming!