Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tragedy of Arthur

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips

Arthur Phillips has written a singularly unique book. It's a fictional memoir, in which he incorporates factual events from his life and literary career and then spins them into a fantastic story about a previously unknown play by Shakespeare.

Arthur, the author of four previous novels (all highly recommended), is the son of a man who spent many of Arthur's formative years in prison, convicted on multiple occasions of committing acts of fraud such as forging state lottery tickets. That same man, a huge fan of Shakespeare, tried from the time Arthur was very young to instill that same love for the Bard into his son.

After Arthur becomes a successful and critically acclaimed author, his father, now dying of cancer and wanting to make amends for his errant ways, entrusts to him what he claims to be a previously unknown play written by Shakespeare and wants him to see that it's published for the rest of the world to enjoy.

It's truly a brilliantly conceived story. What (if any of it) is true? Is it entirely the product of Arthur Phillips's mind? It's questions like these that I was continually asking myself and that kept me entertained throughout. The way Phillips seamlessly incorporates biographical information about both himself and Shakespeare gives the novel the feel of a true memoir. He even includes the entire play at the end of the book. The play alone is proof enough of how great an author he is. And with the story surrounding the play included in the book, it's a must read.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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