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Nothing Like the Sun

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,015 ratings  ·  83 reviews
'Nothing Like The Sun' is a magnificent, bawdy telling of Shakespeare's love life. Starting with the young Will, the novel is a romp that follows Will's maturation into sex and writing.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 27th 1992 by Random House UK (first published 1964)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  1,015 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“For love is one word but many things.”

Anthony Burgess has written a clever book in “Nothing Like that Sun, a novel that imagines Shakespeare’s love life during his teens and his early years as a young actor and playwright in London. This novel is a wordy, at times poetical, text and one that can require your focus to truly appreciate it. The initial reading is slow going and a little confusing due to Mr. Burgess’ style and word usage. It is not a novel that is easily penetrated (pun totally in
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun.."

Virginia Woolf has written of the new biography in which fact and fiction are commingled in an entirely novel and delicious manner thus bringing forth the true personality of the subject of that biography. Anthony Burgess' 'Nothing Like The Sun' epitomises the new biography. A story of Shakespeare's love life, it is also a revelation of his incandescently fascinating mind. I knew about Shakespeare's literary history and a little of his personal life,
Tracy Reilly
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was already impressed with Burgess' language skills in Clockwork, although I now hear he pans that book as a 15 minute bezoomy lark, but there are lines in this book that a good Shakespeare scholar might think that Will wrote himself . I really wanted to give it 4 1/2, because it drags a little in the 4th quarto, but 5 is more accurate than 4 . I would quote to prove myself, but I'm lazy and it's late.
I especially like the scene early in the book, with Will (view spoiler)
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is great fun. Burgess was channelling Shakespeare, so it's full of bawdy imagery, puns and alliterations, all that playful stuff, even poignant at times. There's often rhythm to the prose, and I keep expecting him to break into verse. I'm not knowledgeable enough about Shakespeare's life and work to judge whether Burgess' take is valid, or even remotely convincing. But in my ignorance, it's very enjoyable. Recommended.

Ellen, Elizabeth, have you read this?
Mel Campbell
I read this book years ago but only just thought about it when I was musing today that I can't think of many memorable historical novels by men. By 'historical novel' I mean a novel based on real people and events. This one speculates on William Shakespeare's love life and was published to coincide with his 400th birthday. Its title references the sonnet: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun", and proposes that the much-speculated-upon 'Dark Lady of the Sonnets' was a prostitute and madam ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2010
A masterpiece of the English language, a clunker plot-wise. The parts where a young WS runs around chasing tail are infinitely more interesting than the ones where an older WS writes poems and plays. This says a lot for Burgess's stylistic talents, as precious few write as well about sex as they think they do. But it's also a mark against his imagination: making the life of Shakespeare seem hopelessly dull is quite a feat (not the good kind).

I have serious issues with the novel's misogyny. I'm a
John Yeoman
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A carnival of language! Burgess had a life-long love affair with words, as witness A Clockwork Orange, and this glorious pastiche of 16thc idioms is a poem to the Bard. Forgive the copious in-jokes that only scholars might detect, not least its cryptic nods to Ulysses and Freud. Enjoy the wit, fun and vibrant color!
Roof Beam Reader (Adam)

Anthony Burgess’s Nothing Like the Sun is a highly fascinating, albeit fictional, re-telling of Shakespeare’s love life. In 234 pages, Burgess manages to introduce his reader to a young Shakespeare, developing into manhood and clumsily fumbling his way through his first sexual escapade with a woman, through Shakespeare’s long, famed (and contested) romance with Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and, ultimately, to Shakespeare’s final days, the establishment of The Globe theater,
I'm not quite sure what to make of Nothing Like the Sun by Anthony Burgess. The only other book I'd read by Burgess was A Clockwork Orange, a strange and interesting story of a dystopic future. Nothing Like the Sun is a tale of William Shakespeare and his purported relationships with the Earl of Southampton and Fatima, the Dark Lady.
Like Clockwork, Burgess has a way with language, Nothing Like the Sun written in an oldish English, as if you are reading a Shakespearan play. The story, itself, st
Perry Whitford
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How many novelists can you think of with the required talent and ambition to take on the task of writing a novel about Shakespeare's love life, daring to imagine themselves inside the Immortal Bards head at the moment of creation and in his bed at the moment of climax?

Burgess' Bard is as lusty and ambitious as all young men, yet full of pity and sympathy also, unable to hold his drink, fired by a golden vision of a Dark Lady indirectly inspired by the ravings of a local Stratfordian loon.

Tom Nittoli
As impressed as I was that Burgess captured the Shakespearean tongue in novel format. The story never capitavited me or brought my interest below the surface. I didn't get into WS head or even learn more about his upstart or career. It's told in small vignettes, most of which aren't very interesting. It's an interesting approach, but I felt that chapter 7 in part 2 was the peak for the book, when the chapter is told through a series of journal entries. As far as criticizing a book of this magnit ...more
Barbara A.
Read this while I was taking a college Shakespeare class. I enjoyed it then. I would like to reread it after 40 years tho...
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This rating should be qualified: a four for readers who are already fans of Anthony Burgess or who have the cast of mind to become so, and a two for readers not susceptible to his particular charms.

This book is thrilling for readers who bemoan the increasing simplicity of language favored in modern fiction. When we reduce our prose to something any eight-year-old could understand, we lose much of the precise nuance and shades of color that are the great gifts of our language...we don't have the
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An odd book, that's almost three separate short novellas in one. The best, and first, is the beginning of the book, which follows young Will on his youthful amorous adventures, hoodwinked into a hasty Elizabethan shotgun marriage with an older bride at the precipice of spinsterhood. This is a Joycean like feast of language and becoming; comedy and bawdyness.

The second phase is a paraphrased version of his relationship with Southhampton, and the composition of the sonnets. Some decent dialogue,
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel about Shakespeare written 2 years after "A Clockwork Orange." This begins and end with the manic wordplay of the previous book. Burgess "answers" a few questions about the Bard's sketchy life. He was betrothed to one Ann but the other one was with child, so he married her.
And the "second best Bed" questions of the will is also answered. Shakespeare is a gentleman with some money and buys the New Place in Stafford for his family and retirement. He enjoys the ride "home", walks into a qui
Grace Harwood
This is an odd one - a bit like A Clockwork Orange, the narrative style is a bit strange and it took me a while to get my eye/ear in with it. However once I did (& it took around 200 pages, which is most of the book, mind), this is an intriguing reimagining of Shakespeare's love life and the back story to the Dark Lady/youth of Shakespeare's sonnets. Burgess has a great turn of phrase and I read this in pretty much one sitting. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it's okay for passing ...more
Sarah Reason
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel has been described by a Shakespeare scholar as the only such which functions as a work of art, and I would agree. It is a delicious wander through a possible sexual and romantic life of Will, not to be considered in anyway a history but nonetheless it has more than a ring of truth at moments. The language is, in typical Burgess fashion, a joy. Definitely one for fans of him and of course, of the. Are. Not for the prude nor the weak of stomach, however!
i didn't love this as much as i could have, but i'm willing to guess that it's because of my reading slump, combined with the fact that i made my brain read this quickly.

despite the fact that my enjoyment of this wasn't as great as i had hoped, i will say this: we're doing burgess a big disservice when we praise clockwork orange and then disregard the rest of his body of work completely.

his ability to play with language shouldn't go unnoticed, or be limited to one novel (which he himself didn't
Carol Hunter
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant language, evening you suspect not all the words are real. As satisfy I ng and gorgeous as you might hope for.

Scholar or newcomer, this book grabs you and you feel every happiness or pain the characters do, whether you intended to or not.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you could imagine Shakespeare filtered through Swift and Joyce you might end up with something like this. The language was great fun but the end was kind of disturbing.
Steve Vinton
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Shakespeare readers; Historical fiction;
One word - 'Brilliant'.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful language that takes your breath away- shows the seedy side of Shakespeare set in the seedy times of an accurately portrayed Elizabethan England. Burgess becomes the Bard.
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not for me. It was a very imaginative interpretation of Shakespeare’s life which for me did not ring true
Jorun Bork
Greatly amusing. Would also recommend reading Burgess' book about Marlowe.
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We all know or think we know something about William Shakespeare: everyone knows the titles of at least a couple of his works, everyone knows some basic biographical facts about him, and everyone knows his portrait which is featured not only on the cover of Burgess’ novel but also in probably every single high school textbook of literature.

The main character of Nothing Like the Sun is William Shakespeare, and the novel is about his life and artistic career. Just like a regular biography, the boo
Nothing Like the Sun has made me a Burgess fan, since I was never going to finish reading A Clockwork Orange beyond the fist two pages, which I tried doing back in my late teens and got thoroughly turned off (the beginning of the movie isn't much more inspiring to me, so I'm not tempted to make more efforts no matter how many "best of" lists that title is feature on). This book purports to be a biography of Shakespeare and introduces him from his late teens, when he was presumably occupied cha ...more
Carol Storm
If Anthony Burgess were a Shakespeare character, he'd be Malvolio. He tastes with a distempered appetite!

Writing about Shakespeare gives Burgess free rein, but not in a good way. What he's drawn to in the Elizabethan era is not the adventure, the romance, the chivalry or the passion -- it's the diseases and the smells. Shakespeare was a great writer with a multitude of moods. He could be dreamy, playful, optimistic, just as easily as he could be cynical, despairing, and savage. Burgess, not so m
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ny-book-club
I enjoyed seeing snippets of Shakespeare's plays and poems presented throughout the text. More than implying that even the greatest of artists are mere thieves of the lives that flow around them, Burgess takes these moments to inject interesting critiques of Shakespeare's work (e.g. the particularly Christian nature of Ophelia's madness). However, I'm no Shakespeare scholar and I probably missed most of these elements. Certainly, I did not gather enough of them to find a bold new framework for r ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 1964 fictional imagining of Shakespeare in a narrative that is very Joycean. Imagery is employed to move the plot along, but it is certainly delicious and fitting to each stage in Shakespeare's life. Fittingly sexual, it is also political and grotesque, but the source of each of his sonnets and plays play across his experiences in a wild tumult.

I enjoyed the book, but found it to be a tough slog. The language took some getting used to - of course; Burgess. But in the end, it was a thoughtful
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fictional yet believable biography of Shakespeare's private life, written in an Elizabethan style. Once I got into the cadence and tone, it flowed quite beautifully.

Glad I picked this up during a "Shakespeary" time of my life - in the process of reading and watching a succession of his plays. A year ago this book would have been almost totally lost on me.

As it was, there were many quotes, tidbits and references I got, some I understood after looking it up, and many I'm sure went over my head en
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Anthony Burgess was a British novelist, critic and composer. He was also a librettist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, travel writer, broadcaster, translator, linguist and educationalist. Born in Manchester, he lived for long periods in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in Eng