The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession (B&N Recommends Edition)

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession (B&N Recommends Edition)

4.0 118
by Charlie Lovett
     
 

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A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing

Overview

A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt's Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Peter Byerly cut himself off from the world to recover from the loss of his wife, Amanda, who died nine months ago. An American antiquarian bookseller now living in England, Peter returns to work and discovers, in an 18th-century book about Shakespeare forgeries, a Victorian miniature portrait of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife. His research to identify the watercolor's origins uncovers what could be the holy grail of Shakespeare studies—a book annotated by the Bard at the time he was writing A Winter's Tale—and leads Peter on a dangerous quest to prove the book's authenticity. Interwoven throughout are flashbacks to Peter's early relationship with Amanda and chapters on the book's travels through many hands since 1592. VERDICT Drawing on debates about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays as well his own experience in the cutthroat world of antiquarian books, debut author Lovett has crafted a gripping literary mystery that is compulsively readable until the thrilling end. Recommended for fans of Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book, Shakespeare aficionados, and bibliophiles. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/12.]—Katie Lawrence, Chicago
Kirkus Reviews
A pleasurably escapist trans-Atlantic mystery is intricately layered with plots, murders, feuds, romances, forgeries--and antiquarian book dealing. Lovett's engagingly traditional debut offers flavors of notable British antecedents--Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Noel Coward--while spinning tales in several different eras, all centered on the book that supposedly inspired Shakespeare's play A Winter's Tale. The novel's hero is insecure, grieving, widowed bookseller Peter Byerly, whose scholarship to Ridgefield University in North Carolina introduced him to his twin passions: his future wife, Amanda, and old books. Peter's wooing and winning of Amanda is one of the novel's three concurrent plot strands, the others (both set in the U.K.) being a here-and-now hunt and chase and a through-the-ages tracing of a volume of Pandosto, a play by Robert Greene which came to be annotated by Shakespeare and, if found and exposed in modern times, would answer an earth-shattering (to some) question of scholarship: Did Shakespeare really write his plays or not? Peter's discovery, in a bookshop, of a Victorian watercolor portrait seemingly of his dead wife sets this sizable ball rolling and leads through new female friendships, murder scenes and tombs to a pleasing-if-predictable country-house denouement. A cheerily old-fashioned entertainment.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670016648
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
05/28/2013
Sales rank:
454,538
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright, whose plays for children have been seen in more than 3,000 productions. He is a former antiquarian bookseller and an avid book collector. He and his wife, Janice, split their time between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Kingham, Oxfordshire, in England.

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The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 118 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
There is plenty of intrigue, mystery, and a touch of adventure here. Make no mistake this is a love story. More precisely this is a love story bound in the pages of a mystery book. A young college student, Peter Byerly, discovers his life's work in collecting, restoring, and selling old books. Peter finds his true passion, his raison d'etre, seated among the books in the college library where he works. Amanda is the girl who completes his soul. The stories of Peter's love for Amanda and his love of books are intertwined around a search for any bibliophile's Holy Grail, a concrete connection between Shakespeare the man and Shakespeare's printed words. This is a novel any book lover can identify with and totally immerse themselves in. Book provided for review by the well read folks at Viking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Bookman's Tale is a great love story filled with plenty of mystery and adventure. The ability of the author to juggle three time periods with such ease is impressive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing story. I loved the characters. I loved the flashbacks and control of time. A truly great read. Great for book clubs.
irishclaireKG More than 1 year ago
A novel for every Anglophile and English major. Since I am both a hopeless Anglophile, a former English major and college English professor, picking up this novel was a no-brainer. But in all seriousness, you probably don't have to be any of those to still be grabbed by Lovett's tale of a grief-wracked, pathologically introverted bookseller caught up in multiple mysteries: why is does there seem to be a painting of his deceased, 20th century, wife in an 18th century book and painted by a Victorian artist? Why and how is his search for the truth about that painting leading him in the centuries-old mystery of 'who was William Shakespeare?' Why do other people seem desperate to find out this information as well, and with his stifling inability to socially interact in the world without his beloved wife, can he untangle these chaotic threads? This novel moves back and forth in time; it moves between narrators and points of view; at times it can be a challenge to keep characters, centuries and who-owned-the manuscript-in question-when, straight. But the story is worth the ride and the challenge. For those readers already familiar with the scholarly battles over Shakespeare's identity, the sources of some of his work, his contemporaries like Marlowe...this will be an especially fun read. Lovett has really written a love letter to books, reading, the study of language, the value of classic literature. It is also a look at one man's attempt to overcome almost crippling social-anxiety disorder; Peter is a character that quite honestly, I found hard to like at times because his inability to fully function without his wife literally leading him by the hand down one coming-of-age path after another (finding love, losing virginity, interacting with her publically, dealing with family issues) became almost too much at times. More than once I found myself rolling my eyes or just saying 'Oh come on!' at his issues; I also found the treatment of Peter's parents/family life hard to digest. It is given very generalized, one-dimensional, treatment (his parents=totally unworthy=bad=son cannot love them=the end) that simply does not ring true. But all that being said, the other complexities of this novel are totally engrossing and will probably encourage another reading simply to make sure you have all the facts and characters straight--and simply to enjoy. This is quite reminiscent of the superb 'People of the Book' as well, so if you know that novel, pick up this one.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Peter Byerly is an impassioned bookseller and collector in 1995 who is living in the northern countryside of England while he mourns the death of his beloved wife, Amanda.  They were perfect together, complementing the love each had for old books about literature and art.  In fact they found each other and their career enchanting.  Now, Peter is under the advice of his physician to do certain things to recover from his grief; he has a list he must accomplish. This includes staying in touch with old friends, making new friends, and more.  But Peter was never one for all of these items in the first place, even though he has many, many acquaintances and the care of his wife’s family still.  So one day he forces himself to wander into town, the famous Hay-on-Wye, known as a book collector and book lover’s delight and that is the day his lately sedate, mundane life begins spinning into a mysterious whirlwind! There he opens a book about whether Shakespeare’s plays were written by the master or by someone else and out falls a paper that is a perfect portrait of his Amanda.  How could this be, a watercolor that is such a perfect image of her?  This is the day Peter’s obsession begins and he must find out who this woman was and who painted this watercolor that has so deeply shocked Peter. The novel then moves in three time periods, the first that of Shakespeare and his colleagues whom others insist might have been the true authors of the plays we read as authored by William Shakespeare.  A play called Pandosta written by Robert Greene is passed from person to person to person over hundreds of years, a wealthy artifact that just might be the answer to a riddle that has tormented many literary scholars. It also turns out that the appearance and disappearance of this book has caused grief, rivalry, hatred, and murder between two rival families in Peter’s time.  So the plot moves back and forth through the 1600s and 1900s until the mystery is traced with twists and turns that are totally unpredictable and fascinating.  One also gets a fine, albeit surface, education about book binding and selling antiquarian books.  Whether you are a fellow bibliophile, antiquarian, romantic, mystery or historical fiction fan, this is a notable book to relish page by intricate, complex and enigmatic page.  Very literate historical fiction and highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I liked the book overall, it was curious that the American, Peter, spoke British tinged english at times. *** SPOILER ALERT *** Also, it doesn't make sense that he is Philip Garner's heir when it was his wife Amanda who is descended from the Deveraux family. Did anyone else notice this?   
Almost-Tica More than 1 year ago
First of all, for the record, I was an English major and I've taught Spanish and English literature.  And I'm an avid reader.  HOWEVER, this book lover didn't identify with or totally immerse herself into this often boring and sometimes downright strange novel.  And yes, as another reader mentioned, I found the ending to be totally incomprehensible--concerning who was who's heir!  The pre-publication hype was very misleading for me--I wish I had saved my money for a really good read.  The characters from Shakespeare's time were not really likable, and the modern characters were just "strange."  
warmth More than 1 year ago
I'm not half way yet but I was in love within the first chapter. I took a break to see what else this author has written and convince myself to sleep as I need to get up on few hours for work. So much love for books you feel like your meeting someone that would be an instant friend only the way a fellow book lover can be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Far too many coincidences...
SPFL More than 1 year ago
Really very well written book...unusual plot a great character well executed...better than the average novel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After encountering several errors, including one where the author uses the word "vice" for "vise" and two instances of misuse of lie/lay, as in "the books laying on the table," I could not go on. Like nails on a chalkboard.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“Anticipation brought a cold sweat to the back of his neck. Why had he come? He could be safe in his sitting room with a cup of tea right now instead of standing on a cold street corner with a sense of dread settling into the pit of his stomach……he slipped through an open doorway into the back room where books lined every wall. He closed his eyes for a moment, imagining the cocoon of books shielding him from all danger, inhaling deeply that familiar scent of cloth and leather and dust and words. His rushing pulse began to slow…” The Bookman’s Tale is the third novel by American writer, teacher and playwright, Charlie Lovett. Antiquarian bookseller, Peter Byerly is still a broken man after the death of his wife, Amanda, in Ridgefield, North Carolina, some nine months earlier. He has escaped concerned family and friends to maintain a reclusive existence in a stone cottage in the village of Kingham, Oxfordshire, the cottage he and Amanda had just finished renovating together. On his first attempt to resume normal activities, he visits a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye and happens upon, tucked inside a book on forgeries, a miniature Victorian watercolour of a woman who looks uncannily like his late wife. It is signed “B.B.” It is curiosity about this intriguing likeness together with a call from a member of the local gentry about some rare books for sale that has Peter interacting with the villagers and travelling to London for a meeting of the Historical Watercolour Society, thus following one of his therapist’s instructions for recovery. He is certainly not expecting to discover the “Holy Grail” of rare books, a document that will prove, once and for all, that Shakespeare was indeed the author of the works attributed to him. Nor is he expecting to encounter a murderer. The story is told in three narrative strands that cover different time periods and places: one strand follows the creation of said document and its journey through time from Shakespeare’s day to the late nineteenth century; another describes Peter’s introduction to the two loves of his life, Amanda and the world of rare books; the third relates the rollercoaster ride of events that follow Peter’s discovery.  Lovett gives the reader an excellent literary mystery that incorporates a believable plot with a few twists, appealing characters, a beautiful romance, a good dose of humour, a secret tunnel, murder, theft, forgery, blackmail, adultery, suicide, seduction and, of course, rare books. His expertise with rare editions and their restoration and his enthusiasm for his subject are apparent in every paragraph. He imparts a wealth of knowledge and presents it in an easily digestible manner. Lovett skilfully blends fact with fiction and the “what if” scenario on which the plot hangs generates more than enough intrigue to make this a real page-turner with an exciting climax. Highly recommended. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally loved it recommend it for anyone who loves books, history, and mysteries.
bobsocean More than 1 year ago
An excellent novel. The theme and premise of this book were very well executed, even though we knew it to be fiction. The characters, both present day and times long gone were cleverly brought to life as if it were yesterday. A beautiful love story to boot, again both present day and centuries ago. This book had a little bit of everything: Sex, greed, mystery, murder, love and intrigue. What more could one expect from one book? Bravo to the author Charlie Lovett!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book.
Tcasscros More than 1 year ago
An interesting approach to an arcane world. The mystery and suspense are less pleasing than the attention paid to a Bookman's world. All in all a worthwhile read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Bookman's Tale has just enough historical fact mixed with an interesting story line. I liked the parallel scenarios.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, especially for people who love Shakespeare or are interested in the early business of book binding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has a very interesting concept. I enjoyed reading it, but did find it a little simplistic. Since the writer chose to travel between three different time periods, a Da Vinci Code-like detail would have made it way too long and probably almost impossible to follow. Don't expect an earth shattering read, but it is interesting especially for anyone who loves books and history. SPOILER ALERT -- As to the question of why Peter is Gardner's heir -- Amanda would have been Gardner's youngest heir. Although the author did not make this completely clear, Peter was Amanda's heir, therefore, Peter would have inherited whatever would have gone to Amanda.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovett's main character, a collector, dealer, and restorer of old books, is irresistible to book lovers for his passion for the printed word, both in content and object. The story itself, however, while starting strong, devolves into predictability, culminating in an ending that--well, let's assume it's homage, and not just a rehash of every old mystery tale ever, complete with the killer sitting explaining his crime to the hero when he's about to kill him. (Spoiler: The hero uses this time to figure a way out and survive. Saw that coming, did you?) Read it for the loving descriptions of books and libraries. Just don't expect the tale itself to transport you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mysterylover1138 More than 1 year ago
I knew the second I saw the cover and read the description about this book that I would instantly fall in love with it.  There were so many times I found myself picturing the characters interactions and the flow of the story kept me on my toes.  There was even one point where I found myself almost in tears.  Highly recommend to anyone who loves a good mystery about books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
A book lover’s delight! This book was very well written and original in content. I couldn't put it down. A touching love story dovetailed into the mysterious world of rare book collecting, libraries, restoration, and document forgery. This will be a great addition into any bibliophile’s library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago