Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson

Publish Date: September 2010
Format: Paperback 319pp

Synopsis (From the Publisher): 
"En route to the Americas in 1609, Elizabeth Persons, a young servant girl, sees her blinding headache as an ominous sign. Sure enough, a hurricane during the final leg of their journey tosses the ill-fated Sea Venture and its one hundred and fifty passengers and crew onto the dreaded shores of the Bermudas, the rumored home of evil spirits and dangerous natives. In the months that pass—time marked by grave hardship, mutiny, adventure, danger . . . and a blossoming love between Elizabeth and the wrecked ship's young cook—she despairs of their ever being rescued. But she finds hope and strength in a remarkable new friendship, forming a fast bond with the Sea Venture's historian, a poet traveling under the name of William Strachey. But Will is more than he seems. To many back home in England, he is known by a different name: Shakespeare. And he sees in their great shared travails the makings of a magical, truly transcendent work of theater."

My Review:


Elizabeth Persons and the rest of the Virginia Company aboard the Sea Venture have been blessed with a calm sea and easy voyage. But Elizabeth knows their luck is about to change when she is plagued by one of her excruciating headaches; a headache that always means foul weather is approaching. As the storm wreaks havoc upon the ship, Elizabeth's headache subsides and she soon believes the worst is past; but little does she know what other tribulations her headache foretold.

Although the crew and passengers fear the cursed Bermuda Islands upon which they have landed, Elizabeth believes she has found a special paradise. Unfortunately, her paradise is soon shattered by a series of events which destroy the last bit of normalcy she knows. With mutinous sailors, hidden identities and a tempest of various forms, no one is safe in their existence... especially a woman with a deadly secret.

The Gentleman Poet grabs your attention right from the beginning; the foreboding of the coming tempest builds with every page, and when it strikes, the reader can almost feel the turbulent sea roaring with fury. As the storm subsides, we are introduced to an array of characters ranging from the haughty and pious to the obnoxious with devilish ways. Although the personalities of the characters are broad, they are also very one dimensional, which hinders the readers ability to sympathize with the castaways plight. While the beginning of the novel was engaging, the rest of the book slowed down to a leisurely pace that was borderline too slow.

When I first began this novel, I was excited to discover what adventures the author created as possible inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find that the novel barely had William Shakespeare as a strong figure and the actual connection to the play was minimal. This lack of connection was probably my main issue with the novel since all of the other issues were balanced out by the good qualities. Overall this was an easy read and one I would say is well suited for a relaxing spring day.

FTC: I received this book from the publisher. As always, these are my own honest opinions.


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