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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  29 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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really liked it 4.00  · 
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 ·  234 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a really engrossing, clever novel which follows the life of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. Stoker was never a successful author in his lifetime, when he was better known for running Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London, and accompanying him on his many acting tours. The novels tells Stoker’s story, from his disaffection with his boring office job in Dublin, to his move with his young wife Florence to London to take up the job with the demanding Irving. Irving was the greatest actor o ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful. I loved every word. The (fictional) story of Bram Stoker with a fabulous cast of players, The Chief - Henry Irving, The leading lady - Ellen Terry and the flamboyant - Oscar Wilde.
I savoured every word and felt a bit lost when it finished.
The story centres around the Lyceum Theatre in London 1878 when Stoker was manager and friend to Henry Irving. I found myself laughing out loud at Irving's larger than life character one minute then trying to swallow the lump in my throat
Helen Carolan
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oh how wonderful was this. I'm not an O' Connor fan but this was terrific. Wonderfully written and beautifully descriptive. Set in Victorian London, Bram Stoker is a struggling clerk in Dublin when actor Henry Irving offers him the post of manager of the new Lyceum theatre in London. But Irving is like quicksilver and often difficult to work for. Stoker finds himself often caught in the middle of what are usually petty disputes. Luckily he has Ellen Terry on hand to help keep Irving calm. As the ...more
Crothuir 2019
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Really easy read, helpful if you've read Dracula for some of the references! Definitely a summer read.
Joan Kerr
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
'We are such stuff

As dreams are made on '

What a marvellous book, one of those that keeps on exploding slowly in the imagination for days after you finish it. Henry Irving stalks the stage, full of grandiosity and self-loathing tantrums but also full of need and tenderness for the gentle Bram Stoker, who worked his heart out for him. Stoker was employed as manager from the time Irving reopened the Lyceum Theatre in London in 1878 right up to Irving’s death in 1905. But Stoker had his dreams too,
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific novel about Bram Stoker’s time managing the Lyceum Theatre for Henry Irving with Ellen Terry as his leading lady as various aspects of Dracula are slowly presented to him in his daily life against the backdrop of the Ripper murders and with the likes of Oscar Wilde making cameo appearances.

The structure of the novel is also borrowed from Stoker’s most famous composition in that it contains diary extracts, newspaper articles and phonograph transcriptions. It seems entirely pla
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This is such a strange book.
Initially, I started to read then found it too disjointed to want to continue, so I set it down and moved on. But the reviews here told me it was wonderfully written and would draw me in, so I tried again. And yes, it is wonderfully written, taken word by word, but the whole? Not so much. It is so confusing, leaping from one point of view to another, sometimes present, sometimes past, changing, always changing. It was almost as though the author were experimenting wi
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought I would absolutely love this as it is historical fiction with a literary twist set in late Victorian London suggesting how Stoker's Dracula might have come into being. And I did like it a lot, only with some reservations. I found the narrative method a bit distracting; but overall my conclusion is that the cast list was just too rich. Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Stoker and wife, Wilde and Mina the ghost - I felt as if i'd sat through one of Irving's thunderous performances in a melodram ...more
Simon Gosden
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A glorious tale of three great people; Bram Stoker, Ellen Terry and Henry Irving and the Lyceum Theatre that brought them all together in 1878. Henry Irving the greatest actor of his day, Ellen Terry the most gifted and beautiful of all leading ladies and Bram Stoker, the theatre manager who always had a hankering for writing.
Beautifully conceived, wondrous story telling and a truly remarkable story.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I expected to like this better than three stars and in some ways I should give it more. It has great atmosphere and characterisations. My problem with it was the shaping of the narrative. It was confusing to read as it leapt from one person to another. Often I don’t find this a problem but here, for some reason, I did. It has great depth and soul though. The section which dealt with Ellen and Bram in old age was very meaningful to me
Tara O'sullivan
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shadowplay is a richly imagined historical novel set in London’s iconic Lyceum theatre in the late 1800s, as clerk and aspiring writer Bram Stoker finds himself employed as manager and assistant to the famous actor Henry Irving. Novels about real historical characters can often feel a bit contrived, but O’Connor’s treatment feels natural. Stoker and Irving’s complicated relationship plays out throughout the novel’s events, and the theatre itself, with its spooky passages and cobwebby attics, bec ...more
T P Kennedy
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not normally a fan of Joseph O'Connor but this was a super book. The fragmentary narrative and the faux history was very well written. In taking liberties with time and character, he gets closer to three very complex people than a biographer could. The characters are well observed but there's a gentless and restraint to their portrayal that's masterful. Just a lovely bit of writing.
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Took me a long time to get into this book and I had to start it a few times. It was well worth the efford. Bram Stoker's life , his marriage, his writings while he worked as theatre manager in London during the time of the Ripper. We get the idea that this gave him the idea for Dracula. A great read, with beautiful language that we have come to expect from Joseph O Connor.
Ronan O'Driscoll
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. This book just made my summer. Full of heartfelt emotion and beautiful artistry.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A superb literary love story. Beautifully written.
Sam Bux Romatet
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.8 out of 5. 1 or 2 very minor things rhat I wasn't mad about, but the overall effect is such that I didn't have the heart to give it a four. Well worth a read. Superb story, beautifully written.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
Shadowplay is a sumptuously stunning read full of fact and fiction that enlightens and engages the reader. O'Connor is a master of the setting, able to convey through such evocative and crafted prose a multisensory appreciation of both the external as well as the psychological inner worlds of his characters. Taking to Bram Stoker and his unique relationships with both Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, O'Connor creates a multi-layered exploration of the mind and the surrounding events and that led to ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this story of the relationship between Bram Stoker, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. A brilliant portrait of Victorian/Edwardian theatre, the age of Wilde and Shaw, modernism born out of the gothic, the meaning of literary and theatrical success. The portrait of Terry in particular is unforgettable: a spellbinding scene of her arriving for her cue as Desdemona with absolutely no seconds to spare, slipping on her dooby-doos and entering to rapturous applause, will stay with me forever. Great ...more
Gill Harris
rated it really liked it
Jun 18, 2019
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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 Press magazi
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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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