My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Though my readings habits cover a variety of genres of fiction, I've never really spent a lot of time reading non-fiction. I hope to delve more into historical non-fiction in future, as it comes closest to telling a story with a beginning, middle and end. This slim book by Bill Bryson is no exception. I was fascinated throughout my reading experience, which lasted only a few days, to my chagrin.
I'd never read Bryson before, but he'd been recommended to me by many friends who knew of my reading sensibilities. They cited his humor, his knack for storytelling, and the abundance of interesting facts he peppers his books with. I must say I agree with all of the above. Though this book didn't provide any laugh-out-loud moments, there were plenty of instances where Bryson's dry wit shows through.
As for the subject matter of the book, Shakespeare's life is notoriously unknown and his biographies often hinge on conjecture and guesswork. Bryson works through some of the common myths and falsehoods of Shakespeare's life and creates a more or less complete narrative. Throughout, he gives fascinating asides about the geography of London, outbreaks of the plague, and scathing comments about nobility and royalty.
I particularly enjoyed the sections where Bryson discusses Shakespeare's linguistic contribution to English. It is mindboggling to think of the hundreds of words and phrases he either invented or recorded. It was easy to read that Bryson too was fascinated by this and everything in the book. In the end, that enthusiasm was what made the book truly great to read.
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