Europa. May 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781609455934. $26. F
“In every being who lives, there is a second self very little known to anyone. It’s the best part of you, the most interesting, the most curious, the most heroic.” This epigraph greets readers at the start of this courageous, compassionate, beautifully realized historical novel about friendship, the passage of time, and our best selves. The narrative limns the lifelong relationship among three famous individuals connected to the Lyceum Theatre in Victorian London: Henry Irving, a flamboyant impresario and world-renowned actor who opens the Lyceum; Ellen Terry, also world famous as an actress and a favorite of Irving; and Bram Stoker, the young man Irving hires to manage the Lyceum and who will become posthumously famous as the author of Dracula. The result is an affectionate, tender story about everyday heroism, secret selves, and triumphs and tragedies on stage and in life and the many kinds of love that bind us together. Masterly historical novelist O’Connor (Star of the Sea) brings these friendships urgently to life in all their complexity, messiness, and grandeur.
VERDICT Queasy readers shouldn’t be put off by the darker elements of the story, e.g., Dracula, Jack the Ripper, foggy Victorian London; this work offers readers an authentic and deeply moving literary experience.

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