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The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession Paperback – May 27, 2014
100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“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
“. . .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)
“[A] suspenseful romp spanning centuries and continents and peppered with romance, skulduggery, forgery and murder, all driven by one of the enduring questions of literary scholarship.”—Washington Post
“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
“A Bookman’s Tale has plenty of richness to offer….Daring intricacy.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Da Vinci Code–like sleuthing into the works of Shakespeare and sliding back to the bard’s time.”—Library Journal
“A treat.”—New York Journal of Books
“Begin this book in the evening only if you’re willing to pull an all-nighter…The novel will appeal not only to bookworms and mystery hounds but to anyone who smiles at abiding love or simply enjoys a good read.” —Winston-Salem Monthly
“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.”—MinnesotaReads.com
"[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."—SeattlePI.com
"Lovett's tale sparkles with seasoned storytelling."—The Mountain Times
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Top Customer Reviews
The characters in this book are completely unbelievable. Actually, the characters in the flashbacks, the historical characters, are pretty good. The modern characters, however, are ridiculous.
Case in point: We have a female character who, at the beginning of the book, is portrayed as confident, independent, good-natured, and social. And yet she WEEPS (literally) with gratitude whenever her boyfriend does something nice, even if that something nice is completely self-serving (which it always is). She also cries every time her boyfriend expresses happiness. She cries when he enjoys sex. They go to a show, which was half his idea, and she cries because he enjoyed it. Oh, please.
And all the characters are oblivious. The author finds it necessary to spell out every joke for every character. Every hint must be expanded upon before the other person gets it. The conversations include way too much exposition. Real conversations don't happen like this.
The story is decent, but I found myself rolling my eyes every few pages because of something the characters said or did. It was too frustrating to continue.
The mystery begins with finding in the pages of an old book a Victorian watercolour portrait of a woman who resembles Peter Byerly's recently deceased wife. Who is this mystery woman, and what is the relationship between her and his late wife, if any? Antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly is also called to the library of a local manor house near his cottage in Kingham, England to evaluate some old books. There he discovers some material which may link Shakespeare to one of his plays - which would prove that the Stratford William Shakespeare really did write all of those historic plays.
However, someone could financially benefit from not having the truth exposed and be willing to murder over it. This bookman's tale has three intertwining narratives including the stories of the provenance of a book read by Shakespeare and used in one of his works, the initial meeting and love story of Peter and his wife Amanda, and investigation of the mysteries behind the Victorian portrait and the Shakespeare-linked volume.
You are taken from North Carolina to Kingham, England to London and back. The tale is told in a straightforward writing style without a lot of embellishment. The plot is complex, though. You learn about book collecting, forgery and book restoration in the process which enriches the tale. It's a fairly buoyant, plot-driven tale with agreeable characters. The author lives in North Carolina and Kingham England and was an antiquarian bookseller and collector so you get authentic details. It's a fun escape for lovers of mysteries and books.
I love books about books and a good mystery but this fell flat in many places. Peter is a little dull. The frequent and long flashbacks to his life with Amanda are just too much; overly romanticized and only a little relevant. The current story is interesting enough but a bit predictable as well. I love books and I love bookish stories but this did not live up to the hype. I doubt I would recommend it to anyone.