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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly

Title: Dark Aemilia
Author: Sally O'Reilly
Format: ARC
Publisher: Picador
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth’s royal court. The Queen’s favorite, she develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.

A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will—or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself."

My Two Cents:

Aemilia Bassano was a published poet, a major feat for a woman of her time (this story takes place during the height of the Elizabethan era). She also may have been one of the muses for the one and only William Shakespeare. The operative phrase here is "may have been." In this book, O'Reilly explores who Aemilia was and makes a conjecture as to what her relationship may be have been with Shakespeare. It is a fascinating look, which will interest my fellow historical fiction readers.

Aemilia is a very fascinating figure. Although she had many achievements for a woman of her time, her fate is still very much tied up with the men that she marries or loves. Although Aemilia may have been Shakespeare's muse, they do not share many scenes in this book. The book really focuses on Aemilia's life and Will almost plays a sub-role throughout the book. I wish that Will had been in the book more as I really love reading about him! I wish that there had been more of a focus on some parts of her life (maybe more about how her and Will's relationship started)than others but overall, you get a really nice overview of her story.

There was some really good writing here. O'Reilly tries and succeeds in capturing the sort of bawdy language that might have been bandied about during Shakespeare's time. It really added a nice air to the book!


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