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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  532 ratings  ·  86 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 ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published June 6th 2019 by Harvill Secker
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  532 ratings  ·  86 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 ...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.
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, ...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
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
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.
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
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 ...more
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
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
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
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
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.
Andy Weston
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
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 ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Aspiring writer Bram Stoker moves to London to take up employment with acclaimed actor Henry Irving. He finds himself managing the Lyceum theatre and managing Irving who blows hot and cold but remains a loyal friend. This is a fictionalised account of a period in the lives of these historical figures. It's a little wordy in parts, occasionally the narrative is flowery, but it gives an insight into some of the inspirations behind Stoker's famous work.
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
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
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 ...more
Claire O'Brien
Star Of The Sea is one of my favourite books, probably my favourite book by an Irish author, so when Shadowplay was compared to it, I was very excited. It rarely works out when I go into a book with such high expectations, and such was the case this time. This novel is based on the life of Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) and his work with the famous actor and theatre owner Henry Iving and the unrivaled actress Ellen Terry. Set mainly during the time of Jack the Ripper, it is very atmospheric and ...more
Rachel Pollock
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This book had such promise. I was completely sucked in and 100% on board for the premise. I read it during the week of Halloween and it was a great spooky tale of literary and theatre history, weaving in elements of the creation of Dracula by Bram Stoker, the indecency trial of Oscar Wilde, and the terror of Jack the Ripper. I even loved the conceit of the three-act structure. At the halfway point, I was all set to buy this book for people for Christmas.

But then it started spinning its wheels,
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Joseph O'Connor's Shadowplay is an absolute delight—a novelization of the relationship among actor and producer Henry Irving, actress Ellen Terry, and theatre producer and author Bram Stoker. This tale belongs to Stoker more than the other two, and O'Connor presents it in a variety of formats similar to those Stoker used when writing Dracula: recordings, letters, journals. Such fun!

This is one of those titles you'll race through, not because it's short or simple (it's a rich piece of writing),
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.
gwendalyn _books_
This book was received from the Author, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own

The author intricately plots a character driven romance that fights poignancy through the complex conflicts of fate. There are few authors that are as prolific as O’Connor is. This Atmospheric, riveting and intensely entertaining storyline kept me engaged with itsEerie, forbidding, gloomy, suspenseful, intriguing and a fitting representation to
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish, fiction, gothic
This may just be the best novel I have read this year. A wonderfully atmospheric retelling of the relationship between Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker with a whiff of the Ripper stage right and a glimpse of the massive might of the Titanic on the backdrop. The evocation of late Victorian London is masterly and strangely poignant . Great read
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lonely and loyal Victorian Gentleman

J 0’C portrays Bram Stoker as a tragically lonely yet loyal Anglo-Irish Gentleman. His friendship and deep love for his friends, Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, is central to the story. Cut loose by those who should have loved him best - his parents and his feisty wife, Florence, Stoker roams the streets of Victorian London looking for solace at the same time as the notorious Jack the Ripper. His literary ambition, strong moral code and work ethic haunt
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,
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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
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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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