The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare

The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare

By: Arliss Ryan
Publisher: NAL/New American Library
Publication Date: June 2010
ISBN: 978-0-451-22995-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 19, 2010

This extraordinary tale is based on a writer’s aspirations; the obsession that an author feels to create characters and that perfect “line” that will last for generations to come. This is, of course, what Shakespeare accomplished…or did he?

We begin with an old woman, lying on her death bed, ready to leave this world. By her bedside is her granddaughter, LizBeth, who seems to worship the woman. She, unlike most women of the time period, is not only well-versed, but her wisdom in all areas of life teaches the young child to be better than the average “housewife” that she’s surely expected to become. A delivery is made to the small room; a package that contains the book of comedies, tragedies, histories, and sonnets that William Shakespeare had composed throughout his lifetime. Little do the women in the room know that this portfolio of fantastic writing will be referred to all the way into the futuristic world of 2010. As LizBeth begins to read to her grandmother, the older woman opens her mouth to finally tell the truth of the famous William Shakespeare and how, at twenty-six, she fell in love with the future “literary genius.” Not only did she help him with his scribblings, but she finally confesses that she was actually the real author of more than a few of the unforgettable plays.

Anne Hathaway was and is known as the woman Shakespeare HAD to marry. She lived in the small hamlet of Shottery – a mile west of Stratford-upon-Avon where the great writer was known to have hailed from. Anne was a wonder of a woman; she was extremely intelligent and imaginative, and refused to take the backseat that seemed to be the only “place” available for the female of the species in 1600’s England. One day, she met a young man of eighteen who she’d not seen since he was just a boy during the magical time when Queen Elizabeth had come to town. During his youth, William’s father was a well-respected citizen, but when Anne and Will meet up again, his family is now deep in debt, and he spends most of his time making gloves and leather goods – working for his father to re-establish the family name. Anne finds him still more than a little pompous, not to mention pampered and overly fond of himself, as they embark on a summer romance that turns into a lifetime of partnership and pain.

Anne has William’s children and moves into his family’s house. The disrespect that William’s family shows to her is monumental, and all her husband seems to want to do is run as far away as possible and abandon the family that he made by mistake. Soon, that’s exactly what William Shakespeare does – fleeing to England to become an actor and a bit player on the stage in order to live out his dream of becoming a rich bachelor. Anne, not the type to be left behind, eventually follows her husband and enters into a theatrical world of actors, writers, and fanciful creatures. In addition, she becomes William’s partner, helping him with his sonnets and plays as his name grows bigger and bigger throughout the country.

This story is a fantastic view of life in the theatre, and one woman’s struggle to maintain her family; her attempt to keep the love for her selfish husband; and, understand the remarkable stories that are piling up inside her own head. The history behind such tales as Much Ado about Nothing, Hamlet, Richard III, and others is beyond engrossing to read about. This author brings her abundance of research and well-written verse to her own audience, and literally transports readers back to the world of William Shakespeare, and the secrets that he left behind.

Quill says: Applause is the ultimate aphrodisiac for any author. After reading this, you’ll not only applaud Anne Shakespeare, but you’ll also give Arliss Ryan a standing ovation for a job well done.

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