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Young Will: The Confessions of William Shakespeare

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A fresh and vivid re-imagining of Shakespeare's early years in Stratford and in London

It's 1616 and William Shakespeare is back in his native Stratford-Upon-Avon. His extraordinary career as a playwright and poet in London seems like another world. A strange encounter with a witch-like madwoman in his local churchyard fills Will with dread, and sends him reeling back in memory to those darker days in London along the filthy, fevered banks of the Thames-a time when politics, plagiarism, sexual passions, and betrayed friendship conspired to the point of murder.

Author Bruce Cook perfectly captures Shakespeare's coming of age in a fresh and vivid way. The actors, teachers, lovers, and fellow writers spring to life in Shakespeare's confessions-especially a talented, twisted, compelling, and dangerous man called Kit Marlowe, who would change Will's life forever.

Shakespeare speaks, from first page to last, and tells everything. Literally everything...

407 pages, Hardcover

First published October 13, 2004

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About the author

Bruce Cook

22 books33 followers
Bruce Alexander Cook was an American journalist and author who also wrote under the pseudonym Bruce Alexander. He wrote historical fiction and nonfiction.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Cook's first book was a nonfiction work, The Beat Generation, published in 1971. His first novel was Chicago-based Sex Life, in 1978.

He wrote four novels featuring Los Angeles detective Antonio "Chico" Cervantes under the name Bruce Cook and also a series of novels about the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, the real-life founder of London's first police force, under the name Bruce Alexander, the last of which was published posthumously by his widow and writer John Shannon. Young Will: The Confessions of William Shakespeare was also published posthumously.

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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for Velvetink.
3,512 reviews222 followers
July 29, 2010
A tale of confessions.... Will confessed to being a bisexual libertine, a murderer x 3, an adulterous husband, an absentee father, a criminal usurer, a conscienceless coward, a thief, a perjurer, a plagiarist and an opportunistic hack. Whether any of it is true remains to be proved by future historians. Nevertheless it's an interesting story about how things "might" been for players and writers during Shakespeare's time & I believe Cook covers the general historical aspects of the time quite well ~ you do get a great sense of being there. By the end, the character of Shakespeare did not appeal to me. He seemed to have no regret or remorse for the things he had done. It did however make me more interested in finding out more about the "real" Kit Marlowe.
Profile Image for Tracy Taylor.
98 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2022
I would've rated this book higher, but I just had reservations about this author's portrayal of Shakespeare. While I enjoyed the vivid sense of history in this book, the way Mr. Cook conveyed how it must've felt to live in Shakespeare's time, I didn't like the way he portrayed Will. This Will stands back and lets a good friend drown, he accuses an old woman in Stratford of being a witch because she follows and annoys him, he contemplates killing his wife and children so he can be with his mistress, and then, to top all that execrable behavior off, he murders Kit Marlowe, his former lover. I mean. This just did not seem to me to be the man we see reflected in Shakespeare's plays. Though I know there is almost no historic evidence left behind with which to even identify Shakespeare, let alone tell us what his character was like, his plays say a great deal about him. Though he did write tragedies about murders, he wrote them making it clear that murder is a BAD thing which stains the souls of those who commit it. But in this book, he thinks about murdering his own family, and shows very little (if any) guilt thereafter. He actually seems glad that he murdered Christopher Marlowe. Wow. I just can't see Shakespeare behaving like that.
Profile Image for Jillian.
Author 53 books10 followers
May 30, 2022
Spoiler alert:

Picked this up at my local library books sale for a dollar. Glad I didn’t pay more. It’s slanderous and a hatchet job on the life of William Shakespeare. Yes, I know it’s fiction and clearly, most of it is made up out of whole cloth, but the fact that the author depicts Shakespeare as a murderer and someone with zero remorse about any of his actions is off-putting. The writing style is well done and the depiction of the era is also nicely done, but the story itself pretty much enraged me. Shakespeare didn’t really have a good marriage but the way this character was depicted as calmly and rationally planning to kill his wife was shocking. And to have him be the one who killed Marlowe made me decide to toss this book out the door. I usually donate books after I’ve read them. This one will not be shared as I think it’s truly an attack on Shakespeare’s character. His character should be judged on his body of work. Not this tripe.
Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,041 reviews201 followers
February 15, 2010
This is undoubtedly well-written and believable based on what is known of both Shakespeare and the period, but I found this version of Shakespeare ultimately unsympathetic. This is especially true of the middle aged Shakespeare of the framing narrative. I see him as vacillating between paranoia and self-righteousness. Neither is appealing. The cowardice and pragmatism that led him to his most reprehensible actions are somewhat more sympathetic in context, but when the older Shakespeare looks back on it all I am completely repelled. Does Shakespeare's talent mitigate the fictional actions of Bruce Cook's Shakespeare? Maybe, but there's some significant human wreckage involved, and we can't know what those human beings might have done otherwise.
Profile Image for Cassandra Kay Silva.
704 reviews278 followers
June 26, 2011
Cook really tried to stick with what is generally thought possible regarding Shakespeare life. I think the fun of writing a book about Shakespeare would be rather to go where other people might not have dared tried since so little is really known about him and since so much myth and mystery surrounds who he may have been (He tries this toward the end). I was hoping for more characters in the book to be represented by analogous characters in the authors actual plays, and was sad that it was not to be.
Profile Image for Alice Browne.
26 reviews1 follower
August 26, 2009
This novel (published posthumously) by Bruce Cook is an enjoyable memoir of William Shakespeare's raging youth. I have no idea whether any of the adventures of Young Will are verifiable or not, but he apparently led a life of crime; crimes ranging from scrumping apples to murder.

Well, involuntary manslaughter. Or negligent homicide. Whichever.
Profile Image for Michael.
423 reviews49 followers
May 13, 2009
Although much of the account of these early years of the great playwright is speculative at best this is still an entertaining possible young Shakespeare. From Stratford-Upon-Avon to the streets of London, Bruce Cook recreates the late 16th Century and the life of theatre pretty splendidly.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,237 reviews35 followers
February 21, 2011
A solid narrative with a significant twist that I did not see coming at the end that almost makes you wary of Shakespeare. I love Bruce Cook (also Bruce Alexander of the Sir John Fielding series) for his research and care of historical detail. His was a sad loss to historical fiction.
Profile Image for April.
519 reviews
November 21, 2010
Is it weird that I have a very real memory of writing this review over a month ago? Oh well. This was the most fun $1 bargain book read I've ever encountered.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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