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The Sonnet Lover: A Novel Hardcover – June 12, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345479572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345479570
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,652,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goodman (The Ghost Orchid) turns to Shakespeare for the plot of her fifth novel, with mixed results. Rose Asher, Hudson College Renaissance poetry professor, returns to La Civetta, the Italian estate-turned-academic retreat where, as a college student 20 years earlier, she had the romance of her life with married professor Bruno Brunelli. He's still there, but this time Rose has come as an adviser on a film inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets and the mysterious "Dark Lady" therein. The script, which includes an unattributed Shakespeare-like sonnet (taken from a manuscript found at La Civetta), is by one of Rose's star pupils, Robin Weiss, who soon dies in a possibly suicidal accident. The manuscript has vanished, but the sonnet seems to suggest that Ginevra de Laura, the 16th-century daughter of a master mosaic artist who worked at the estate, may be its author—and Shakespear's Dark Lady. Multiple plots and subplots revolve around the manuscript's recovery, Robin's death, the film, Rose's clandestine relationship with college president Mark Abrams, Bruno's presence and worries that Bruno's son, Orlando, may be a murderer. Goodman makes a plausible fictional case for Ginevra's crossing paths with Shakespeare and ably recreates the present and past Italian countryside. Nevertheless, dizzying crisscrosses, love triangles and rampant political machinations surrounding La Civetta's ownership obscure an intriguing solution to the lingering Dark Lady mystery. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Poetry approaches life aslant, offering hints of hidden truths. Hammett Prize winner Goodman makes brilliant use of the poet's perspective in a gripping mystery literary in form and content. Poet and Renaissance scholar Rose Asher (so much is in a name) teaches at a small but ambitious New York college that offers a summer program at La Civetta, a villa outside Florence. The resplendent, reputedly haunted villa is the setting for a film made by Rose's favorite student, who falls to his death immediately after the premier. Did Robin die because he discovered the long-lost work of an unknown Renaissance woman poet? Rose, involved in a secret affair with the suspiciously elusive college president, reluctantly returns to La Civetta, the site of her greatest love, to see if she can discover the truth about Ginevera de Laura. Was she the enigmatic Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets? Did her blood once stain the villa's marble floors? Goodman plants macabre clues in the villa's elaborate ornamentation and makes fluent use of Shakespeare's works and life in a stunningly intricate, slyly satiric, and darkly romantic mystery of lust and privilege, love and poetry. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

This book is full of twists and turns.
joyfully centered
It followed formula a little too closely, and I thought there were far too many instances of convenience.
Very romantic setting, but really a sad love story for so many of the characters.
Connie I. Dernbach

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Every once in a great while along comes a book that I don't want to finish, simply because of the letdown when it ends. There's so much enjoyment in the reading - lush and evocative descriptions, graceful prose, characters that spring to life from black printed lines, undercurrents of mystery, an imaginary bridge between today and years long past, plus romance. So much to savor! In Carol Goodman's hands there is often the deft turn of a phrase, a telling detail capturing both eye and mind. Or, one finds a described scene more vivid than a painting.

An extraordinarily capable writer, this author blended all of the above into one remarkable book - The Sonnet Lover.

The bare bones of the plot: Rose Asher is a literary professor at New York's fictional Hudson College. As she notes, "The most thankless job on the planet may well be teaching Renaissance love poetry to a group of hormone-dazed adolescents." Nevertheless, there are other perks - she is involved in a love affair with Mark Abrams, the college president, and she has a star pupil - Robin Weiss who has written a prize winning film.

Sadly Robin's potential is not to be fulfilled as he falls to his death from a balcony following the interruption of a college party. Was it an accident, was he pushed?

To try to answer these questions Rose agrees to return to La Civetta, a Tuscan estate near Florence which has been loaned to Hudson College as a teaching institution. She joins Mark, other faculty members, and possible producers of a film who believe that Robin may have discovered a sonnet written by Shakespeare's mysterious Dark Lady.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Carol Goodman's "The Sonnet Lover" is a literary thriller about lost manuscripts that are valuable enough to serve as a motive for murder. Thirty-nine year old Professor Rose Asher teaches comparative literature at Hudson College in New York. Her handsome and brilliant young student, Robin Weiss, has made a film that was shot in La Civetta, a Tuscan estate worth nearly a billion dollars. Its eccentric and flamboyant owner, Cyril Graham, has promised to bequeath his property to Hudson College to become a center for the performing arts.

Rose has bittersweet memories of her own stay in La Civetta when, as a nineteen-year old student, she had a passionate affair with her married professor, Bruno Brunelli. The relationship ended abruptly, Rose went on to pursue her successful academic career (she is a specialist in the Renaissance sonnet), and she now has another man in her life, college president Mark Adams. Suddenly, Robin's promising life ends when he falls off a balcony to his death. Was it murder, suicide, or a tragic accident? To find out, Rose revisits La Civetta along with Mark Adams, Gene Silverman (the head of the film department), and Leo Balthasar, a Hollywood producer who is planning to making a feature based on Shakespeare's sonnets. Says Leo, "Picture 'Shakespeare in love,' only steamier."

The book's premise is that in the sixteenth century, Shakespeare may have traveled to Italy to be with his lover, a poet named Ginevra de Laura, and perhaps his mysterious "Dark Lady." Ginevra's poems were lost and the skeptical Professor Asher insists there is no proof that Shakespeare ever set foot in Italy. "The Sonnet Lover" capitalizes on the popularity of historical mysteries featuring priceless documents and long-buried secrets.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Carol Goodman is one of those extraordinary writers whose novels get better and better. Her newest work, THE SONNET LOVER, is rich in history, literature, art, poetry, theater, visual arts, word pictures, mystery and corpses. The action moves back and forth in time, chronicling past events with verve and a narrative of its own. Subplots, behind-the-scenes skullduggery, a love triangle, suspicious secrets, betrayal and a final reckoning at a writers' retreat in Italy keep the plot hot and readers riveted to the edge of their chairs. Goodman understands that with so much going on and with so many characters, she must tie everything together into a cohesive whole.

THE SONNET LOVER poses an interesting theory: Did William Shakespeare, at 17, arrange a clandestine meeting in Florence, with his "Dark Lady," the woman to whom he wrote sonnets? Scholars and others have pondered over his sonnets numbered 127-152 for any clues as to who this "sonnet lover" could have been and if she existed beyond the Bard's imagination. If this cache is really the lost documents of a woman who knew and loved Shakespeare, then history could be turned upside down. Readers are led to believe that her "responses" in poems and sonnets are to her lover "Will," and they are at the heart of the novel. Rumor has it that these 16th-century works could be hidden somewhere in La Civetta.

Rose Asher is a teacher of Renaissance poetry at Hudson College in New York City. She is having an affair with the school president, Mark Abrams, and is also very close to one of her students, Robin Weiss. While Rose is disappointed that Robin has changed his major to filmmaking, screenwriting, playwriting and directing, she is still his mentor.
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More About the Author

Carol Goodman graduated from Vassar College, where she majored in Latin. After teaching Latin for several years, she studied for an MFA in Fiction. Her writing has been published in a number of literary magazines. She currently teaches writing and works as a writer-in-residence. She lives in Long Island, USA.

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