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Shadowplay

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,214 ratings  ·  217 reviews
1878- The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and e ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published June 6th 2019 by Harvill Secker
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,214 ratings  ·  217 reviews


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Paromjit
The gifted Joseph O'Connor writes a smart and profoundly moving piece of historical fiction that is an absolute joy to read set in the Victorian era and featuring a famous trio of real life characters of the time. Abraham 'Bram' Stoker, a part time clerk in Dublin, born in 1847, who went on to become business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, who died unable to achieve his dream of literary success, receiving little support for his writing, and the brilliant Shakespearean actor of his day ...more
Dem
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
An enjoyable read but not a book that bowled me over.

I loved Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea and Ghost Light and was really excited to pick up a Hard Copy of Shadowplay. I was aware that while the novel is based real events surrounding the lives of Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) Victorian actor-manager Henry Irving and leading actress of the day Ellen Terry, but many liberties had been taken with the facts characterization and chronologies and while this is effective in order to create the
...more
Peter Boyle
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
We've all heard of Dracula, but have you ever wondered about the man who invented him? Shadowplay is a fictionalized retelling of Bram Stoker's life, beginning with his origins as a Dublin civil servant. When Stoker writes a positive review of actor Henry Irving's Hamlet, Irving hires him to run his Lyceum Theatre. Stoker and his wife Flo are excited by their new life in London, but when he discovers the wretched state of the theatre and experiences the first lash of Irving's notorious temper, t ...more
Emma
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I do like books set around the theatre. This was a very evocative and atmospheric read and I really enjoyed the clever elements that lead us through the journey of Bram’s writing Dracula. Irving was a well drawn character and I really felt for Bram’s poor wife! But I felt the book went off in too many different directions and the style of chopped up narrative is not one I enjoy. A very good read though.
Chadwick
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction of the highest order. Absolutely top-notch.

This is one of my favorite novels of this year . . . or any year. I love everything Joseph O’Connor has done here: the structure, the characters, the story, his gorgeous prose. It’s deeply satisfying fiction.

It’s a terrific theatre novel. On the surface, it’s reminiscent of O’Connor’s fine prior novel GHOST LIGHT (which deals with the doomed romance between playwright J. M. Synge and actress Maire O’Neill in early 20th century Dublin)
...more
Essie Fox
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor is a tenderly observed account of the – sometimes surprising – inspirations that eventually led to the creation of what many call the masterpiece of gothic literature.

Dracula, or The Undead, written by Bram Stoker is an epistolary novel in which imagined documents form the development of narrative. Echoing this style, O’Connor shows how Stoker’s work was influenced by certain people, by the places and events observed during the years the author spent working as the
...more
Margaret
Jul 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Such potential. Was really looking forward to reading this book but i found it rather irritating. there were passages where i was really into the atmosphere and story line but it went on too many different tangents for my liking. it jumped around from character to character and place to place in a way i found hard to follow.
also the actual writing, while trying to be atmospheric and it was. But at times was far too descriptive - too many adjectives. adding descriptions that were really not neces
...more
Anne Griffin
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing read. The language and dialogue are simply superb here. It's harsh, tender and humorous all in one must read book. This tracks Bram Stoker and his life around the time of his writing of Dracula. This is a triumph from Joseph O'Connor, one of Ireland's true masters.
Cathy
In this fictionalized account of the life of Bram Stoker, the author adopts some of the literary techniques of Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula, including the use of diary entries, letters and transcripts of conversations as well as more traditional third person narration. As Stoker struggles – with limited success – to achieve his literary aspirations, some of the fun is spotting names and places that will later find their way into Dracula.

The core of the novel is the relationship between Bram St
...more
Nigeyb
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I adored Shadowplay. The first book I have read by Joseph O'Connor, but certainly not the last

It's a bravura reimagining of the real-life relationship between Bram Stoker and the two greatest stars of Victorian theatre, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry

Huge names come and go: Oscar Wilde has a tragicomic cameo; Jack the Ripper terrorises the London streets; WB Yeats is glimpsed on a Dublin bridge, his appearance serving only to fire Stoker's need to escape to London.

Bram Stoker, Ellen Terry and Henr
...more
Samantha
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Like a lot of thumping good stories, it starts on train.”

So begins Shadowplay, a beautifully written, surprisingly sweet account of Bram Stoker’s life and (perhaps) the things that inspired Dracula that were connected to Stoker’s tenure as a theatre manager at the Lyceum.

First, here is what this book is not: A vampire novel. If you’re looking for a new spin on Stoker’s Dracula, this isn’t it. (I’d suggest Lauren Owen’s The Quick or Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian if that’s what you’re after)
...more
Kimbofo
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reviews
Joseph O’Connor’s Shadowplay must be one of the most underrated books of the year. It won the Eason Novel of the Year at the 2019 Irish Book Awards, but it doesn’t seem to have garnered much attention in the UK or elsewhere. And yet this is a truly amazing book, one of my favourite reads of the year, and deserving of a much larger audience.

Set largely in London in 1878, it brims with atmosphere and menace and pure Victorian gothic drama.

It takes real-life characters — Bram Stoker, the Irishman w
...more
Francesca
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
excellent fictional account of the relationship between Irving, Stoker and Ellen Terry while also bringing the reader through the probable journey that ended in the writing of Dracula.
Joseph O'Connor is such a brilliant writer and manages to convey both Dublin and London in detail.
The dialogue and rapport between the characters was amazing and at times hilarious: had to read some parts aloud to himself and we had a good cackle together.
The pace was at times a bit choppy which was distracting fro
...more
Paula
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, beautiful writing.
Zoe
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Immersive, evocative, and colourful!

Shadowplay is a beautiful, powerful, alluring interpretation that sweeps you away to London in the late 1800s and into the life of Bram Stroker, from his employment as manager of the Lyceum Theatre, his tumultuous relationships with both his employer, Henry Irving and the celebrated actress Ellen Terry, to his ultimately writing the infamous Dracula.

The prose is expressive and eloquent. The characters are exceptionally drawn, complex, and authentic. And the pl
...more
Mandy
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just loved this. Very well written and brilliantly evocative of the time and place it is set in, I found it completely compelling and thoroughly enjoyed it. It examines, with great imaginative flair, the relationship between Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker, who arrives in London from Dublin in the 1870s to work for Irving as General Manager at the actor’s Lyceum Theatre. During his time at the Lyceum, Stoker attempts to pursue his own literary career, with very little success, with t ...more
Kathy
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Europa Editions for this ARC through Net Galley.
4.5 stars for a wonderfully rich read
This book was available earlier from other publishers and there are plenty of favorable, descriptive goodreads reviews of this work of literature I need not add to beyond my appreciation for this fictional account of real characters who were early celebrities in the world of theater.
We meet the two main characters on a train heading for yet another theater tour, Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and his
...more
Robin Stevens
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Please don't be put off by this very misleading and unattractive cover - this is a brilliant imagining of the life of Bram Stoker in the years before he wrote Dracula, when he was the manager of Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre. Really clever and beautiful, a must for any Dracula fan (15+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. If you use it in any marketing material, online or anywhere on a published book without asking permission from me first, I will ask you to remove that u
...more
Henry
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a book so interesting I finished it. Not easy for me to get into a book during the current plague, but I did. The setting is mostly London in the late 19th & early 20th centuries, including the time of Jack The Ripper. Bram Stoker, Ellen Terry & Henry Irving are the main characters & all work at the famous Lyceum Theatre. If you don't know all these people, you will soon enough. The writing is witty and also moving. Highly recommended! ...more
Sinéad
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love anything and everything associated with Bram Stoker and Dracula, so when I heard of Shaowplay it was a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a fictitious account of Bram Stoker's life and his relationships and friendships with Sir Henry Irving, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his era and Miss Ellen Terry, the highest paid actress in England at the time.

The story unfolds with Bram's life in Dublin, his marriage to Florence, his move to London, meeting Henry and beginning wor
...more
Marina
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Joseph O’Connor is a fabulous writer and it’s on the strength of his name that I started this book, without reading the blurb. I was surprised to discover that his main characters were real people – Bram Stoker, Henry Irving and Helen Terry.
I enjoyed reading the atmospheric recreation of a 19th century theatre with its flamboyant occupants and yet I’ve found the intervals between putting it down and picking it up again are getting longer and longer. Although I’ve read way over half of (what see
...more
Emily
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs
2.75

There was so much about the synopsis that had me excited - Victorian England, Jack the Ripper, theater, Bram Stoker writing Dracula...there was so much potential. This book had moments where I felt invested, but unfortunately, it never quite worked for me. The writing style was strange - it jumped from letters, to journals, to narrative and there were many times where it was unclear who's perspective I was reading from. It felt very choppy and hard to follow.

I really enjoyed the parts that
...more
Eleanor
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Set in the Lyceum Theatre in 1878, and with a cast of characters including Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Bram Stoker, and (briefly) Oscar Wilde. Fantastically evocative historical fiction with a wide streak of poignancy and an even wider streak of queer desire and anxiety. One for fans of The Wardrobe Mistress, The Phantom of the Opera, and Things In Jars.
Sally Zwiebach
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This shimmering novel is one of the most satisfying I’ve ever read. An absolutely magnificent and delightful experience. Two days after slowly finishing it, I began re-reading it.... one chapter at a time. Although completely accessible, the characters and themes are even deeper and richer the second time around.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
I'm going to say it was more of a 3.5 star . I just felt like I was taken on this journey of feelings with this book while reading it.

When I first started, all my thoughts were "This is why we read fiction!". I mean, it's so literary with such gorgeous writing. The storytelling is fantastic. But then my feelings towards it started to fade and I felt like I was being dragged along. And then it would pique my interest in just what a wonderful story this was. And then those feelings would dwindle
...more
Andy Weston
O’Connor’s novel is an excellent accompaniment to reading or viewing Dracula . The book tells the story of Bram Stoker, and two actors of the day, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Though these days Stoker’s name is more widely known, in his lifetime that wasn’t the case; Irving, Britain’s first theatrical knight, and Terry, were international celebrities.
London plays a key part also as Stoker, fetched by Irving from Dublin to manage his theatre, charged with nervous energy, prowls its streets at
...more
Karen KK
I received this from Netgalley.com.

"1878: The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. "

Kind of a dry read, I found it hard to follow at times.

2.75☆
Julie Anna
Shadowplay
⭐️⭐️⭐️

Note: I received an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Shadowplay is a historical fiction novel set in Victorian London. It follows the lives of Henry Irving, Bram Stoker, and Ellen Terry and their involvement in the opening and management of the Lyceum Theater. We mainly follow Stoker, who is responsible for managing the theatre, and how his time there as well as other personal matters inspired him to write Dracula.

Going into this b
...more
Frank Parker
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is so much to praise about this book it's hard to know where to begin.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to read a number of excellent books in 2019, several of them award winners. I have given a five star rating to several. I now know that was premature. To rate Shadowplay by comparison to the others would require me to award it at least seven.
But let me state before I go any further that I found the first few chapters a little disconcerting, with their assortment of points of view,
...more
Bandit
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As if I didn’t have enough theatre in. my life, I went to read about it too. But to be fair, not just any theatre, The Lyceum theatre in London. The place that has witnessed its share of greatness, the place one devotedly managed by Bram Stoker. Yeah, that guy, the only ordinary person to legitimately reach immortality through vampirism. But first, he was a mere Dublin clerk, whisked away on a promise of an adventurous and challenging employment to London by Lyceum’s star and impresario. Thus be ...more
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There is more than one author with this name

Joseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. He is the author of the novels Cowboys and Indians (short-listed for the Whitbread Prize), Desperadoes , The Salesman , Inishowen , Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls , as well as a number of bestselling works of non-fiction.

He was recently voted ‘Irish Writer of the Decade’ by the readers of Hot
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“It was simply the way with Harry, like waiting for sunrise. But once you made clear that you wouldn't be going to bed with him, he'd look oddly relieved and calm down. And the matter once raised would not be revisited, I will say that for him. He didn't make a nuisance of himself. Funny old skellum. Never dull. There are men whom it is important not to take the slightest notice of when they're talking, if it's after ten o'clock at night and they've had a glass of beer. Harry was one such mammal.

They really and truly don't mean to be idiots. But it's like a Roman Catholic person not wanting to feel guilt. Might as well ask water to run uphill. Except that might conceivably be contrived. With a pump.

Once, he asked my sister to run away with him, to Rotterdam I think it was. She said no and he asked my brother. That was the most important thing to understand about Harry. Essentially, what he wanted--darling, who wouldn't--was someone to run away with him to Rotterdam.

It's what all of us want, isn't it? Of course, nobody gets it. Probably not even those misfortunates who are in Rotterdam already. One wonders where they want to run away to. Crouch End?”
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