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Harvard Yard Hardcover – October 29, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Martin, who introduced antiquarian Peter Fallon in his debut novel Back Bay (1979), brings him back for a second quest in this sprawling bibliomystery, which traces the tightly interlaced histories of the fictional Wedge family and Harvard University. Fallon, a proud Harvard grad, assists in the university's annual fund-raising appeals. One call, to Ridley Wedge Royce, lands him not a donation but a tip. The intriguing possibility that the Wedge family once owned a rare and unknown Shakespeare manuscript-a text purportedly linking Will Shakespeare and Harvard's founder-is enough to hook Fallon. But others are on the same scent and willing to go to any lengths to root out the manuscript if it still exists. How it came into the possession of the Wedges, and what happened to it next is gradually revealed as Martin spins through 300 years of American history-from the Salem witch trials and the Boston Tea Party to the Civil War and up to the radical late 1960s-telling a tale of Harvard the institution growing from a tiny establishment under beastly first master Nathaniel Eaton to become America's premier university. Fallon's search takes a back seat to the historical material, but the novel provides good entertainment and copious Crimson lore.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Martin continues to entertain with the successful formula he perfected in best-sellers Back Bay (1979) and Cape Cod (1991). The author races back and forth through time in order to solve a bookish mystery rooted in historical events. When antiquarian bookseller Peter Fallon follows the clues he hopes will lead him to recover a lost Shakespeare play written in the bard's own hand, he himself becomes the target of both underworld thugs and unscrupulous academics. The most compelling action takes place in the past as he traces the utterly fascinating evolution of Harvard University by interweaving it with the intimate history of one of New England's first families. Bound by oath to preserve John Harvard's library, Issac Wedge takes care to squirrel away the Shakespearean quarto the dying Harvard entrusted to his care. Realizing that Puritan reactionaries would most certainly destroy the play, Wedge hands it down for safekeeping to his own son, establishing a pattern that is repeated by each succeeding generation until it appears that the manuscript has been lost. Or has it? It is up to Fallon to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The unexpected twists and turns through history will keep readers guessing and the pages turning. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446530840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446530842
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on October 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Through Harvard grad Peter Fallon, a rare book dealer, author William Martin reveals the more than three hundred fifty years of Harvard history and its intimate connections to the history of New England and the nation. An ancient legend says that Robert Harvard, father of John Harvard, for whom the college was named, lived in Stratford-on-Avon and was a friend of Shakespeare. Supposedly, Shakespeare gave him a hand-written manuscript of a now-lost play as a wedding present, sometime around 1605. Author Martin uses this legend as the fulcrum around which the book turns and speculates about what might have happened to the play over the course of almost four hundred years.
A dozen generations after Shakespeare gave the manuscript to Robert Harvard, a member of the Wedge family engages Peter Fallon of Back Bay to try to confirm the existence of the manuscript and ascertain its whereabouts. As Fallon begins his research into the story of the Isaac Wedge, thought to have received the manuscript from John Harvard, he introduces us to such luminaries as Cotton Mather, a religious zealot who began Harvard at age 11; George Burroughs, who was executed in the Salem Witch Trials; Caleb Wedge, who fought in the Revolutionary War; Theodore Wedge, a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau; and eventually to Joseph Kennedy, Harry Widener, John Kenneth Galbraith, Robert Oppenheimer, and President Franklin Roosevelt. We witness the horrors of King Philip's War and the religious excesses of the Salem Witch Trials, the Great Boston Fire, the Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic, two world wars, and the opening of the college to Jews, blacks, and women.
Martin's concern is to make history lively and understandable, his characters sympathetic and often noble.
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Format: Hardcover
Martin's latest novel follows the history of Harvard University from its inception in mid-1600, when endowed by John Harvard, Puritan son of Robert Harvard, of Southwark, England. After most of the family is decimated by the plague in England in 1625, surviving son John Harvard moves with his wife to New England, where he bequeaths his father's prestigious library, with Robert Harvard's message to the future, that "a man is known by his books".
Among the precious volumes is a handwritten play by William Shakespeare for John and his wife. The play is even more valuable because it is an original and the only copy of it ever produced by Shakespeare. However, things become difficult as the first establishment for higher education is run by the strict Puritan dogma, one that is restrictive of frivolous ideas or temptations. As we follow the history of the small volume, it is necessary for it to be removed and placed in a safe place until the college has broadened its perspective on what constitutes an education. The ensuing quest for this Shakespearean work is the central theme of Harvard Yard.
Moving back and forth in time, Harvard Yard revisits the original manuscript and its unique place in the Harvard library, making a case for the play's removal from the library when its survival is threatened by the historical imperative of the Puritan ethic, as well as the suggestion of it's possible reappearance. Antiquarian book dealer Peter Fallon is called to Harvard by his fellow alumni, descendants of the Wedge family, a dynasty that has been integral to the formation of Harvard's educational policy and financial resources. Fallon is asked to do research to determine if there is such a lost play, and if so, to do all he can to locate it, as it is worth millions of dollars.
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By A Customer on November 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Harvard Yard is William Martin's very best in a pantheon of excellent novels. The fortunes of Harvard, the people who brought the college into being and the four hundred years of history, with all the pathos, ethos and Thanatos found in the very best historical novels. Martin goes for the double story here, as he had in Back Bay and Cape Cod: the historical story moving forward through time told through the eyes of a cast of facinating characters who went to Harvard and built this nation - and the current story in which the main character and the woman he loves discover a dark secret at Harvard that could change the fortunes of the world. I read it straight through, wanting more. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
You've gotta love a story that introduces William Shakespeare, as one of the characters, on the very first page! That's how William Martin begins his latest novel, HARVARD YARD. Robert Harvard, father of someday-to-be founder of Harvard University, John Harvard, is on his way to Stratford-On-Avon to visit his friend Will. Bill Martin has fashioned quite a wonderful tale from this meeting between friends. We get re-introduced to Peter Fallon, an antiquarian book dealer from Martin's previous novel, BACK BAY, who is now on the trail of something even more exciting than a Paul Revere Tea Set. (Well, I certainly would rather have a lost manuscript of Shakespeare's even more than the tea set!).
The character that energizes this novel is the University itself. Its presence and influence are felt throughout Harvard Alum Martin's compelling story. We come to see that Harvard, more than any other University, has the stature and cachet to construct this story around. Major events in our history are seen through the portal of Harvard and a quintessential Harvard family, the Wedge's. We learn of Harvard's simple origins and how it grew and becomes the force it is today. We meet important influences in the University's development, such as that fun father and son duo, Increase and Cotton Mather. (They kind of remind me of that joke about a Puritan minister's always having a sour look on his face because somewhere, somehow, someone is having a good time.). We learn why theater is the Devil's work. Why the Colonial fathers made a law against theater in 1767. (Play. A mere word and the uttering of it was like the sound of a gun.)
We discover that Harvard Graduation, long ago, was a Cambridge holiday. It turned Cambridge Commons into a kind of Mardi Gras.
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