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The Bookman's Tale Hardcover – May 28, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly immerses himself in his trade to overcome grief from the loss of his beloved wife a few months earlier. Now plying his trade in England’s Cotswolds instead of the North Carolina site of his tragedy, Byerly happens across a small watercolor portrait of a woman who looks startlingly like his late wife. And so begins an obsessive hunt to find out the origins of this painting. Lovett shifts his narrative around in both time and setting, recounting the lovers’ first meeting, in the library at a southern college, and the blossoming of their seemingly improbable love affair: he a bookish, repressed teen, and she an heiress. Byerly discovers the portrait’s Victorian provenance, and then the author moves his story even further back, to the time of Shakespeare. Fans of mysteries, of love stories, and of rare books will all find moments in Lovett’s novel to treasure. --Mark Knoblauch


“With THE BOOKMAN’S TALE, Charlie Lovett tells us a terrific story—there’s mystery and suspense, murder and seduction—but more important, he shows us how it’s all connected, all of this: the reading and the keeping and the sharing of books. It forms a chain long and strange enough to tie a heartbroken young scholar from North Carolina back to the Bard himself, who might or might not have been William Shakespeare. Every link along the way is a bookman’s tale all its own, and Lovett tells them all, except the very last, of course: because that’s you, about to read this book right now.”—Robin Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
“Lovett’s novel, THE BOOKMAN’S TALE, is a marvelous new Shakespearean mystery: an intelligent thriller that is also a love song for books and the people who relish them. Lovett knows his stuff about Shakespeare, rare books, and the passions that both inspire, and he weaves from these a delicious tale of love, loss, and the thrill of discovery. It kept me turning pages till the wee hours for days. The only disappointment was that it came to an end.”—Jennifer Lee Carrell, author of Interred with Their Bones

“Lovett tells his story with ease, charm and a faith in his characters that eventually draws them into our sympathies.”—USA Today
“[A] delightful tale of love and bibliophilia.”—Parade 
“. . .A gripping literary mystery that is compulsively readable until the thrilling end. For fans of Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book, Shakespeare aficionados, and bibliophiles.”—Library Journal (Starred)
“A pleasurably escapist trans-Atlantic mystery is intricately layered with plots, murders, feuds, romances, forgeries—and antiquarian book dealing.”—Kirkus
“Fans of mysteries, of love stories, and of rare books will all find moments in Lovett’s novel to treasure.”—Booklist

“I don't read much fiction. I'm picky.  But I loved racing through Charlie Lovett's The Bookman's Tale, a richly rewarding thriller filled with real-world details about the discovery of a rare book that may or may not be a priceless Shakespearean artifact. Fun for everyone who's ever fondled a soft leather binding!”—DANIEL SINGER, founder, Reduced Shakespeare Company and co-author of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

“The Bard is back in this rollicking literary mystery….This novel has something for everyone: William Shakespeare, a love story, murder and even a secret tunnel.”—Star Tribune
“Da Vinci Code–like sleuthing into the works of Shakespeare and sliding back to the bard’s time.”—Library Journal

A Bookman’s Tale has plenty of richness to offer….Daring intricacy.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A treat.”—New York Journal of Books
“All too good to resist….The Bookman’s Tale is a book about books, written for lovers of books.”—The Fayetteville Observer

“Roguish booksellers, feuding nobles and unexpected plot twists.”—The Asheville Citizen-Times

“[A] charismatic tale about the rare book world and history come to life….Like a gigantic hug to all book lovers.”—

"[A]n immensely satisfying and plesurable read that combines a range of genres and above all else, celebrates the beauty and wonder of the literary word."—

"Lovett's tale sparkles with seasoned storytelling."—The Mountain Times

The Bookman’s Tale is three stories in one…and Charlie Lovett moves deftly….You can’t stop reading until you find out what happens.”—Charleston Post & Courier


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (291 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a novelist and playwright who loves books--old and new. My 2013 New York Times Best Selling novel, THE BOOKMAN'S TALE, is set in the world of rare books--a world I learned all about during my years as an antiquarian bookseller and book collector. THE BOOKMAN'S TALE has been sold in 12 foreign markets, from Russia to Romania, Finland to France. My next novel, FIRST IMPRESSIONS, features Jane Austen as a major character and wil be published by Viking in October, 2014 . My plays for children have been seen in over 3000 productions worldwide, and I love hearing from students and teachers who are involved in producing my plays. I especially enjoy visiting schools to chat with student actors and writers. I worked for more than a decade at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC, and have a real soft spot for school visits. For lots more information about me and to schedule a book club phone in appearance you can visit my website at You can follow me on Facebook at or on Twitter @CharlieLovett42.

Customer Reviews

I loved this book. . . great characters, interesting plot and very well written.
Granddad Paul
The Bookman's Tale By Charlie Lovett is one such novel and is destined to be one of my favorite books read in 2014.
Kimberly Scott
The story flowed nicely, however, the flashbacks in time seemed a bit confusing at times but only for a second.
Dinah L.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Genevieve Kazdin on June 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oh MY! This is a book for book lovers, collectors, book historians, researchers and those who enjoy a good story. Everyone seems to have written a summary of the plot, so I won't. What you will find here is a mystery, a love story, some book history, and chances are good you will not work out the whodunit until the very end of the book. (Or even when it was done!!) Lovett surely did his research for this story - and that just adds to making the story so readable. It does ring true -- as though these things could indeed have happened. I did find some problems -- at least for me. The final solution does seem a bit contrived, although by that time the reader really doesn't mind. And although Lovett generously thanks his editor, I do wish that reliance on spell checkers was not used for quality books. Folks, 'I' is not a proper substitute for 'a'. No matter what some software will tell you, please read the manuscript. This is a marvelous read for a summer afternoon. And likely for a winter day -- or when Autumn leaves fall -- oh I did enjoy this book and hope you will as well.
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Format: Hardcover
Our protagonist, Peter Byerly, is a young bookseller who caught the bibliophile bug at (the fictional) Ridgefield University in North Carolina. A scholarship boy with crippling shyness, his preferred work/study job was in the library, because he wouldn't have to interact with anyone. And yet that is where he meets the two great loves of his life: rare books and Amanda.

The story actually begins with Peter recently widowed, Amanda having died suddenly after they'd been married only six years. Heartbroken, Peter has fled North Carolina for the cottage in Kingham, Oxfordshire, England that he and Amanda had bought the year before.

Now, months later, Peter decides slowly to return to his antiquarian book hunter/seller work. In Hay-on-Wye, the renowned city of bookshops in Wales, he discovers a portrait of Amanda slipped inside an old volume. But it can't be Amanda, because this is a Victorian-era portrait. The discover electrifies Peter. He must find out where this portrait came from.

A request to evaluate a local Kingham resident's manor-house collection of antiquarian books leads Peter on a quest for what he calls the Holy Grail: proof that William Shakespeare really was the author of all those plays and sonnets, rather than Marlowe, de Vere, Bacon or one of the other better-educated writers often claimed to be the more likely source.

Peter's two quests become a thrilling adventure, especially for readers fascinated by old books and their travels through time and the lives of their owners. Each chapter tells one of three stories: Peter's modern-day (1995) pursuits, his life with Amanda and the chequered past of the grail book.
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63 of 72 people found the following review helpful By dianaers on May 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession is a lot of things. It's a love story, mystery, thriller, all combined into one book. Peter Byerly, a socially awkward antiquarian book seller, is still reeling from the death of his beloved wife, Amanda. To escape, he goes to England, hoping to rejoin life by immersing himself in his first love, books. He happens to come across a watercolor portrait of Amanda while browsing through an old book. The thing of it is, though, is that the painting was done a hundred years prior. Driven by obsession, he steals the picture and finds himself in pursuit of who BB (the artist) and the person in the painting are, while stumbling upon a manuscript that could very well prove that Shakespeare actually wrote his plays.

This book had some pretty good selling points for me. Obsession? Bibliophila? SOLD! I found it to be well written and really interesting. Lovett draws from his own personal experience in the antiquarian book business, and it is very clear that he knows his subject matter. The descriptions of how books are restored and about forgery are in depth and very comprehensible to someone that has no idea about any of that stuff. I really liked how he drew his inspiration from actual documents (such as Shakespeare's Pandosto) and people, yet do not forget that this is primarily fiction.

The story shifts between three different stories: present day (or rather, the 1990s), the mid 1980s (Peter and Amanda's love story), and the early 1600s-late 1800s (the story of the Pandosto manuscript, the "Holy Grail" of English literature). The time periods are easily discernable as they are all labeled before it moves into that particular segment.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By armybrat on June 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is pure delight! The protagonist is the embodiment of every English teacher's dream: we all secretly would like to own a book store or be able to collect or work with antiquarian or rare books. Better than that, the characters in England are people we all know and teach about. Everyone teaching BEOWULF talks about Cotton Vitellius XV -- and here's Robert Cotton! and Green, and Will. I purchased this as a gift for a fellow teacher and told her I'd like to read it when she was done. She gave it to me in three days -- in the midst of the chaos of closing school for the year -- and told me " is about obsession because [she] couldn't stop reading". It got me the same way. I knew many of the places in London the author writes about -- even ate in the little Italian restaurant off Coptic Street -- and that made it even more enjoyable. I returned it to the owner to pass on to other insatiable readers, so I guess I have to buy myself a copy because I will definitely read it again.
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