You know me, I like hanging out with authors. This week I’ve been hanging with Shakespeare, which is pretty good. Being fairly dead (him, not me) it had to be in Celia Rees’s The Fool’s Girl, and let me tell you; that’s not bad at all. As far as the book is concerned, it’s absolutely outstanding. And wonderful. In some silly way, I feel proud to have hung out with old Will.
I just wish I could remember what Celia was saying about her plans for the book in Cheltenham 18 months ago. I listened, but it’s all gone from my mind now.
Like Celia, I quite like Twelfth Night (and unlike her I believe it’s the 5th of January, but let’s not quibble). I was a little confused to begin with, not quite working out where we were in relation to Shakespeare’s writing of the play, and what happened to Viola ‘in real life’. Because that’s what we get. There is a real Viola and Sebastian and everyone else, and eventually there is the play.
It’s rather like the photo of the photo of the photo. It’s hard to know what is real and what is real. Twelfth Night isn’t really real, but nor is The Fool’s Girl. And I was so not helped by placing Venice somewhere really strange in my mind at the start of this novel, but that’s not Celia’s fault. Don’t know what happened to me.
So, Will gets to play the hero, or at least help Violetta and Feste sort out various things that have gone wrong in Illyria. Most of the characters from the play are running around London and Oxford and Stratford, and some of them doing not very nice things. It’s a great caper, and it’s an interesting look at England in 1601. I have been there before, but it’s always good to see different perceptions of this period.
I’m tempted to say this is Celia’s best novel, but I am very fond of her witch (understandably) and her pirates, so I can’t say that. But it’s a close thing.
And the book is purple, which is always appreciated. Remembering it’s about Violetta, I suppose it’s not surprising. For those who also like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is another treat in store.