AliceinWonderland's Reviews > The Book of Air and Shadows

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
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's review
Jul 20, 2011

did not like it

This book is based upon a fictional account of discovering one of Shakespeare’s lost plays about the Queen of Scots.
It thrusts its’ main characters into a world of literary intrigue and adventure, complete with your typical Russian gangsters, ciphers in ancient cryptology, and double-crossing spies!

The main characters are an IP lawyer, Jake Mishkin, and a film school wannabe, Albert Crosetti. Although Gruber does a good job at propelling seemingly ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances, they are not characters that resonate with you once the book is finished. That is, these characters can not be described as likeable, albeit they are sufficiently and believably flawed. (i.e. Mishkin is a self-proclaimed sex addict, and Crosetti is a film obsessed wannabe that lives with his mother.)

The female characters in this novel are weak, although the central double-crossing, white-trash turned book-binding genius character of Carolyn Rolly had potential. Unfortunately, despite a compelling start, she never lives up to this potential and disappoints us. (She falls in love with Crosetti and takes her 2 in-bred kids with her.) I must admit, I had bold hopes for her to be one of the best female villains in literature (second only to the character of KATE in John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden), but she doesn’t even come close. The other female characters are just there to add some flavour to the plot, but are not essential at all.

I did enjoy the literary thriller aspect of this book for a good first third of the novel…Gruber does a good job at grabbing your attention right off the bat, and wondering what is going to happen next.
About a 1/3 of the way into the novel, however, this sense of anticipation begins to fade, and the pace decelerates…to the point where in the next 1/3 of the novel, nothing much happens.
By the end of it (the last 100 pages), I was just lamenting when the book would be over and when we could wrap it up already!

The main part that really soured me towards the book overall was this notion of the letter and the play being an elaborate hoax. Nothing angers readers more than dragging someone through almost 500 pages of text, chasing the characters through numerous death-defying feats, only to discover this entire thing was a set-up. It’s like the horrible “It was all just a dream” ending!!

By the end of it, I couldn’t be sure anymore if the “hoax” angle was yet another herring to the actual truth, (which is, the lost Shakespeare play being actually discovered & authenticated, and the seller would be paid $150 million dollars for it).

Overall, the book did not meet my expectations (however unreasonably high they might have been), and I feel a little cheated from the 3 weeks I spent reading it!

(*On a side note, I find it INCREDIBLE that is it NOT common knowledge that not one single of Shakespeare’s works has actually been discovered. That is, none of his plays were written in his own hand. All we have remaining of the supposed “best writer of all time” are a few signatures on legal documents, [all misspelled]. The closest thing linking Shakespeare to his works is the First Folio, put together by his friends and fellow actors, AFTER his death. Thus, Shakespeare conspiracies have run rampant for the last 400 years! WHY DON’T THEY TEACH THIS IN HIGH SCHOOL?)

Another book that delves into similar Shakespeare conspiracy theory is “Interred with their Bones” by Jennifer Lee Carrell.
This book was average as well. I read it about one or two years ago.
I think I’ve had enough of Shakespeare conspiracies for awhile, and I will read his Sonnets instead. :-P
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