Saturday, November 07, 2009

Five best books that evoke time & place

Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short story collections for both adults and children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize; once in 1977 for her first novel, The Road to Lichfield, and again in 1984 for According to Mark. She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her highly acclaimed novel Moon Tiger. Her novels include Passing On, shortlisted for the 1989 Sunday Express Book of the Year Award, City of the Mind, Cleopatra's Sister and Heat Wave. Her new novel is Family Album.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books that evoke time and place. One title on her list:
A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare
by James Shapiro
HarperCollins, 2005

James Shapiro places Shakespeare and his plays in their historical context, demonstrating how a yearlong burst of creative activity in 1599—"Henry V," "Julius Caesar," "As You Like It," the first draft of "Hamlet"—was prompted and fueled by what was actually happening at the time. England was threatened by Spain and its armada (possibly inspiring the "jittery soldiers" early in "Hamlet"), for instance, and Queen Elizabeth's favorite, the Earl of Essex, was pursuing a disastrous campaign to put down an Irish insurrection ("Henry V" mentions a general "from Ireland coming, / Bring rebellion broached on his sword"). The aging Elizabeth, with no successor waiting, feared assassination; "Julius Caesar" depicted the murder of a ruler. By finding public concerns reflected in the plays that Shakespeare was writing, Shapiro cunningly carries readers back to a single year and shows an extraordinary mind at work.
Read about another book on Lively's list.

Learn about the book that changed Penelope Lively's life.

--Marshal Zeringue