Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

Picador. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781250048134. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250048141. F
Of all the debates that rage in scholarly circles regarding Shakespeare, perhaps one of the most popular—second only to the question of authorship—is the argument over the identity of the "Dark Lady." A popular choice is a woman considered one of "Shakespeare's Sisters": poet Aemelia Lanyer. The daughter of a royal musician, educated among the elite of English society, she became courtesan to one of the most powerful lords in Elizabeth I's court. But upon becoming pregnant, she was married off to a wastrel cousin, exiled to the working-class neighborhoods of London, and left to rage and write in obscurity. Making her U.S. debut, British author O'Reilly fills in the gaps between what is known of these two Renaissance artists, supposing Aemelia to be the Dark Lady, Shakespeare's lover and muse. With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O'Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures.
VERDICT With Shakespeare's 450th birthday approaching this April, fans of historical fiction writers such as Philippa Gregory, Anne Easter Smith, and Tracy Chevalier won't want to miss this one. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14; academic and library marketing.]
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