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.
Because I am in a Shakespeare frame of mind, I plan to take a break from the Historical Fiction Challenge and read The Book of Air and Shadows next. As always, I’ll let you know how it turns out.