Author: Celia Rees
Release date: 5th April 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction, Elizabethan Era, YA
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Amazon:
Violetta and Feste have come to London to rescue the holy relics taken from the church in Illyria by the evil Malvolio. Their journey has been long and their adventures many, but it is not until they meet the playwright William Shakespeare that they get to tell the entire story from beginning to end! But where will this remarkable tale ultimately lead Violetta and her companion? And will they manage to save themselves, and the relics from the very evil intentions of Malvolio?
The Fool's Girl sees us in Elizabethan England. Shakespeare is living in London, working as a player for Burbage in the years before his career really takes off. The Fool's Girl is not a story about Shakepeare but of the life of Violetta and Feste. In this tale the events of Twelfth Night have been reworked. Violetta comes to England in search of Shakespeare's help to restore her country Illyria. She is the daughter of Duke Orsin and Viola - one of two couples who found love in despite many disguises in the famous play. Violetta's story is a sad one marked by loss and betrayal at the hands of her Uncle Sebastian. He is a bitter man twisted by the friendship his sister had with his wife the Lady Olivia - Olivia and Sebastian are the other lovebirds from the play.
Twelfth Night was always my favourite Shakespeare play as I was growing up. I am a reader who prefers happy stories andI naturally warm to Shakespeare's comedies. About two years ago I went with hubby to see The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Globe which must be the best place to watch the master playwright's work. So now I think maybe that is my favourite play because it is just so funny and full of sauciness. Anyway, this is an aside. I was really excited to read The Fool's Girl because it has so many things that appeal to me as a reader.
Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the book as much as I expected to. The narrative structure made this book feel quite alien to me. You read parts of the story from Violetta's viewpoint, parts from Feste and parts from Maria. Then you have the general third person narrative which is the thread which pulls the story together. As I was reading, I didn't feel that I was inside the story. The characters were not real to me but rather felt like they were puppets being used for a purpose. Naturally when you read a story, you want to care about the characters, to feel their every emotion and this is not my experience of this book. The only exception to this was Feste. Perhaps that is why the title suggests he is the one with the power in this novel. He was entertaining, cantankerous and endearing. I wish the whole story had been told from his point of view.
The book certainly has many strengths: the quality of the writing - Rees' use of figurative language is melodic and the authenticity of Elizabethan England was palpable - you really get a sense of place through this novel. I thought the ending was brilliant and unfolded in a spectacular fashion with constantly building dramatic tension. Actually, the end made me wish I had tried harder to feel the beginning of the story. I think The Fool's Girl requires effort on the part of the reader to concentrate and to be in the right mood to step into Violetta's shoes.
Overall, this book was not what I expected yet I think those expectations are a failing on my part rather than the author's. The novel captures the experience of being an Elizabethan player and the brilliance of the fool. I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this because of its depth and attention to detail but they must be prepared to commit to the story because this is not an easy read.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me the book to review.