Review Blog

Aug 10 2010

Fool's girl by Celia Rees

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Bloomsbury, London, 2010. ISBN 9781408803325.
(Age 12+) Historical. Recommended. When Feste and Violetta arrive in London, finding refuge with Sir Toby, now fallen on hard times, they seek out Will Shakespeare and begin to tell him their tale. Feste is taken on by Will to replace the clown now gone over to the Rose, but not before they get Will to promise to help them in return. The time is about 1600, Will is making his name in London at the Globe Theatre, Queen Elizabeth 1 is on the throne of England, with the remarkable Robert Cecil as her secretary and master spy. Violetta and Feste have escaped Illyria, now in ruins, a haven for pirates attacking Venetian traders.
For Shakespearean buffs, the names Violetta and Feste will spark remembrances of the play, Twelfth Night, but for those not familiar with the play, they will soon learn all about it. The story told by Violetta and Feste parallels the play written in 1601, which tells of twins, Viola and Sebastian, falling in love with the Count Orsino and the Duchess Olivia. Violetta's story takes up the thread after the marriages, when the pairs of lovers become bored with each other, and disaster ensues, leaving their respective kingdoms in tatters.
All the main characters from Twelfth Night are included, Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Agnew, Malvolio and so on, which enables the reader to learn more of the play, as well as become deeply immersed in the story presented by Rees. And deeply engrossing it is too, as the pair roams London's streets, taking refuge where they can, looking for Malvolio who has stolen the icon of Illyria, which Violetta, as the new Duchess, wants to retrieve, so setting her country on its rightful path. Surprisingly Shakespeare hatches a plan with Cecil, taking his troupe on tour to Stratford, while following the progress of Malvolio and the Venetian ambassador, intent on inciting an uprising in Protestant England. Fool's girl is an entertaining and enlightening read, full of memorable characters placed against a marvelous setting and will engage lower secondary readers.
Fran Knight

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