The UK Diaries Part 2: Shakespeare


Of course, Shakespeare was on the itinerary. We’ve been Shakespeare lovers for most of our lives, way before our milk teeth grew out. Our school had an annual play production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream put on by the sixth graders (I played Snout / The Wall and was Props director when it was our turn, if you must know), and to this day, we can still recite long passages of the play from memory.

We hit two Shakespearean destinations for this trip: Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank in London, and Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

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The Insult and Curse Book

I love books filled with useless bits of information, so I was ecstatic to find  Weird Wills and Eccentric Last Wishes from a bargain bin, and I set about to collecting the rest of Michelle Lovric’s trivia books. So far, I’ve gotten Deadlier than the Male,How to Insult, Abuse and Insinuate in Classical Latin and Eccentric Epitaphs.

The latest addition to my Michelle Lovric collection is The Insult and Curse Book, a compilation of colorful statements that will probably come in handy whenever I’m in a bad mood.

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39 Clues: Into the Gauntlet

Sorry this is a bit delayed — I’m swamped at the moment; it’s been a very busy week!

Spent the weekend prepping for the upcoming 39 Clues: Vespers Rising launch party with three books: 39 Clues #10: Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix; The 39 Clues Black Book of Buried Secrets; and The 39 Clues Agent Handbook.

I realize I wasn’t able to post reviews of the last three books in the series (that I read last year — ooh, that brings my 2010 total to 209!), so let me bring you up to date.

More Cahill family secrets are unraveled in books 7, 8, and 9 as Dan and Amy continue their worldwide quest for the Cahill family treasure, launched with the passing of their beloved grandmother. Grace Cahill, the last Cahill family matriarch, offered all her heirs a choice between one million dollars and the starting clue to uncover the Cahill family legacy, which has produced the source of power and wealth of the Cahills, a family line which has produced prominent personalities in world history and culture, such as Galileo, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mozart, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Winston Churchill, Mao Zedong, Rasputin, Neil Armstrong, Christopher Columbus and George Washington.

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Shakespeare: A Crash Course

Shakespeare was a rite of passage for me. In the school I attended, the sixth graders put on an annual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (for nearly two decades now, I think). Next to graduation, AMND was the most important event of our grade school lives, and the pageant season was something everyone looked forward to — the school transforms into a magical place when Shakespeare-spouting elves and fairies, noble lords and fair ladies, and mustached mechanicals  traipse around the campus, heightening the excitement for the much-awaited annual performance.

It was the pre-digicam ’90s so I don’t have any pictures of our production (the play photos are of a recent batch from the school website), but I don’t think any of us will forget our AMND experience. Up to now, you can ask any of us who were in that play and we can probably recite whole acts from memory.

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My Father Had A Daughter by Grace Tiffany

My Father Had A Daughter is a wonderfully inventive fictionalized memoir of Judith, William Shakespeare’s daughter.

Since they were young, Judith and her twin brother Hamnet, have been in awe of their father, who told them stories about fairy queens and the playhouses in London. Judith and Hamnet are inseparable, and have a world no one else understands (Hamnet and Judy playing A Midsummer Nights’ dream evoked memories of our 6th grade play in St. Scho)… But tragedy strikes as Hamnet accidentally drowns In a fantastic game Judith creates out of her wild imagination, and Judith is stricken with grief.

One day, Judith uncovers a new play in her father’s wastepapers — Twelfth Night, which to her horror uses her grief as a springboard for the plot. Enraged, Judith decides to storm off to London to sabotage her father’s play, under the guise of street urchin Castor Popworthy, and she rediscovers her theatrical self.

I liked this book because it was charming, and Judith Shakespeare seemed to really come to life. The earlier parts of the book, when Hamnet was still alive, reminds me of The Thirteenth Tale and its concept of “twin-ness,” and how a twin is never the same once “untwinned.”

The highlight of the novel is when the spunky Judith becomes a girl acting as a boy acting as a girl right under her father’s nose — The whole London adventure was hilarious!

It’s also great how Judith’s relationship with her parents evolved, how she gained respect and affection for her mother, and how her relationship with her father evolved from hero worship, to disillusion, to finally, an understanding of her father’s character.

My copy: a well-worn trade paperback bought at Book Sale (P70)

My rating: 4/5 stars

photo courtesy of Barnes and Noble (