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Nothing Like the Sun (Norton Paperback Fiction) Paperback – December 17, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


“Shakespeare [is shown] in his own stirring times. . . . A brilliant book. . . . Taut and forceful.” (Aileen Pippett - Times Literary Supplement [London])

“Implicitly, Burgess is making the case that Shakespeare's talent had its origin in his sexual drives and that his topless towers of words were founded on his immense desire and will. Fascinated but resistant, I reread the sonnets and found that the novel illuminated them so much as to justify his case. This is to me a measure of Burgess's talents--that he can remake reality not only in his own writing but also in a new perception of the writings of his subject.” (New York Times Book Review)

Nothing Like the Sun is a wildly inventive, verbally dazzling attempt to enter the secret chambers of Shakespeare's inner life. Cunning, alert, and deliciously irresponsible, Burgess brilliantly invents a private history of sexual desire and betrayal lurking behind the blank face that looks out from the First Folio.” (Stephen Greenblatt)

About the Author

Anthony Burgess (1917–1993) is the author of many works, including A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed, Nothing Like the Sun, Honey for the Bears, The Long Day Wanes, The Doctor Is Sick, and ReJoyce.

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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Paperback Fiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (December 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039331507X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393315073
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Burgess (25th February 1917-22nd November 1993) was one of the UK's leading academics and most respected literary figures. A prolific author, during his writing career Burgess found success as a novelist, critic, composer, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer, essayist, poet and librettist, as well as working as a translator, broadcaster, linguist and educationalist. His fiction also includes NOTHING LIKE THE SUN, a recreation of Shakespeare's love-life, but he is perhaps most famous for the complex and controversial novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, exploring the nature of evil. Born in Manchester, he spent time living in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England, until his death in 1993.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By mp on January 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anthony Burgess's "Nothing Like The Sun" is a linguistic marvel. It is a philosophically oppressive look at William Shakespeare's foray into literature and the world. Starting in the small 'borough' of Stratford, WS (as he is called) is an apprentice leather craftsman. He spends his days and nights dreaming of plays, gentility, and idealistic love.
Most of the novel shows WS trying to figure out what kind of love he is after. His notions of love come from Plato's "Symposium" - will it be common, physical lust, or contemplation of absolute beauty leading to his best poetic and dramatic works? The relationships that the novel explores these questions with are with the youthful noble Henry Wriothesly and the exotic, colonial Fatima.
Burgess delights in wordplay throughout the novel, using for the most part, the language of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets in the narration and dialogue. Unlike "Shakespeare in Love" Burgess's novel does not build around any specific text, instead making his works almost marginal to the drama of Shakespeare's fictional biography. Burgess presents Shakespeare's works as the results and expressions of a desperate life.
Burgess augments Shakespeare's story with an almost post-colonial historical setting. With Fatima allegedly from the Indies, and a backdrop of English oppression of the Irish, "Nothing Like The Sun" complicates Shakespeare's historical moment. Class struggles, plagues, and political sterility also mark the temporal setting as the novel moves from the country (Stratford) to the coast (Bristol) to the capital (London).
Reading "Nothing Like The Sun" was a welcome experience for me, having only ever read Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange" before. The writing style takes a little getting used to, but that is the price you pay for art. I highly recommend it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 1997
Format: Paperback
By Tom Crawford

Burgess has taken the few facts we have about the life of Shakespeare and spun them into a most engaging story, centered around his relationship with the "dark lady" of the sonnets. Here we have a Shakespeare who lives and loves and always aspires to a higher social standing that he, the son of a modest glover from Stratford, will never achieve. But no matter -- as Burgess makes clear, he is the genius whose work will outlive all of the mere nobility of his time.

Among other things, Burgess speculates that Shakespeare bequeathed his "second best" bed to his wife because he caught her there with his younger brother. Burgess also elaborates on a theory put forth by other Shakespearean experts -- that Will contracted syphillis and spent the last years of his life disease-ridden as a result. Did it all happen exactly this way? Who knows? But you'll enjoy speculating along with the author.

Burgess, who was always a clever man with words himself, writes in the conversational tone and flow that one most likely would have heard in Elizabethan England. This might seem tiresome to the casual reader, but it helps establish an atmosphere that feels right. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the biographical background to Shakespeare's plays (or anyone with an interest in the Bard at all).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dana Huff on April 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I'm sure Anthony Burgess's Nothing Like the Sun is like nothing I've ever read before. The novel is subtitled A Story of Shakespeare's Love-life; Burgess's essential claim is that Shakespeare's literary genius was borne out of his lust. It's an interesting thesis, as desire can be quite a motivator, and Burgess manages to convince.

The novel is rich with period detail and dialogue; indeed, it might take some time for the casual reader to become accustomed to Burgess's use of Early Modern English. For readers familiar with Shakespeare's sonnets and plays, the novel is a delight of allusions. I found myself wishing I were much more familiar with Shakespeare even than I am, having taught several of his plays (and some of them many times) because I feel sure that some allusions passed me by.

Burgess crafted a plausible, entertaining narrative from the few scraps of information we have about Shakespeare's life and in the process, held a lens up to Shakespeare's work and times, exposing both work and times as sublime and filthy at the same time. I would recommend this book highly to anyone interesting in learning more about Shakespeare or about Elizabethan England.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Lacks the tragic inevitability of "Dead Man in Deptford", but still a good read. Brilliant language, Elizabethan England nicely evoked, well-drawn characters, clever speculation to fill in the gaps in what we know of Shakespeare's life. A bit crazy, especially at first, but that's what you pay for with Burgess, right?
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Phillip Jones on November 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
This fictional account strings together those facts we know about Shakespeare and uses complete and admitted fancy to flesh out the rest of his life. In this way, Burgess creates a fascinating and engaging lifestory of the young provincial man who became the greatest playwright of our language. While clearly a novel, it manages to make real, palpable people from those faceless names of the Elizabethean time, and helps makes sense (or nonsense) of so many of the theories surrounding Shakespeare's genius. It's vividness shows Burgess as a master of both academia and imagination. A thoroughly good read, and a must for anyone remotely interested in Shakespeare.
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