The Tutor: A Novel by Andrea Chapin

Book Review:

Expanding on the turbulence of late 1500’s England, where Catholic persecution started in Henry VIII’s reign would soon give rise to the Gunpowder Plot, now most celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day with bonfires.  In this novel, Andrea Chapin has captured the secretive and persecuted nature of the secret Catholics in this story, as she introduces us to Katharine de L’Isle, a widow living with her uncle.  Resigned to a life of reading, spending time with cousins but without love.  When her Uncle’s priest is discovered and murdered leaving blatant ties to the household, Katherine’s uncle flees prosecution and England leaving the household in turmoil.

The integration of the family and other secondary characters helps to add a sense of the era, the struggles and even the tiny dramas within every family. Cleverly woven in as direct to loosely contrived connections to characters from several of Shakespeare’s works: a device that adds a richness to the secondary characters, giving them a prominence that would otherwise leave them as filler.

With Uncle Edward on the run, the house in turmoil and a general dissolve of the Hall’s orderly functions a new tutor arrives. Bold, plain spoken, flirtatious and quick witted, William Shakespeare sets Katherine back a few steps: never expecting half of what comes from his behavior. But, as she hears more, she notices his facility with language, the poetic musings and his cleverness and is intrigued. Soon their attraction morphs into something more: sharing ideas and conversations, and Katherine begins to fall in love.

For me this story’s true joys were in the interactions and interpretations of characters, the conversations and the facility with languages: Chapin has a deft hand for mixing conversation, word use and presentation of both story and character that captivates imagination and feels very solidly Shakespearean. Nuanced, often layered with entendre and a sly wit, the carryover works to keep readers thinking and processing. Adding in flavors of the political and social climate of the time grounds the story as solidly Elizabethan, while never overtly condemning or accusing any of the players in the very tumultuous game.

I loved this story and Chapin’s ability to mix imagined and historic events and moments to enrich the reader’s understanding and infatuation with the time.  A fun piece of historic fiction that hit on my Shakespeare obsession, but wove a story that intrigued and engaged throughout.

The Tutor: A Novel by Andrea Chapin

Title: The Tutor: A Novel
Author: Andrea Chapin
Genre: Historical Fiction, Elizabethan
ISBN: 1594632545
Published on: 5 February 2015
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 368
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 28 minutes
Rated: four-stars
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A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together. 

The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when the family’s priest, who had been performing Catholic services in secret, is found murdered. Faced with threats of imprisonment and death, Sir Edward is forced to flee the country, leaving Katharine adrift in a household rife with turmoil.

At this time of unrest, a new schoolmaster arrives from Stratford, a man named William Shakespeare. Coarse, quick-witted, and brazenly flirtatious, Shakespeare swiftly disrupts what fragile peace there is left at Lufanwal. Katharine is at first appalled by the boldness of this new tutor, but when she learns he is a poet, and one of talent, things between them begin to shift, and soon Katharine finds herself drawn into Shakespeare’s verse, and his life, in ways that will change her forever.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Andrea Chapin

Andrea Chapin is the author of The Tutor. She has been an editor at art, movie, theater, and literary magazines, including The Paris Review, Conjunctions, and The Lincoln Center Theater Review. She has written for such publications as More, Redbook, Town & Country, Self, Martha Stewart Living, and others. Chapin lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

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