screenshot202There’s always been a lot of talk about whether or not William Shakespeare did indeed write all those plays and sonnets. Lea Rachel explores that idea in her novel, The Other Shakespeare.

From the Amazon publisher’s summary :

Judith is talented, creative, and driven to accomplish great things. But, alas, she has one “shortcoming” that stands in her way—she’s a woman.

Set in sixteenth-century England, The Other Shakespeare tells the tale of Judith Shakespeare, older sister to the famous William, as she struggles to develop her talent and gain acceptance in a world that won’t recognize her because of her gender. Consistently denied her independence, she’s forced to engage in extreme measures to get what she wants out of life—and to make difficult decisions that will shock and surprise you.

Written in the vein of character transplant novels like Grendel, Ahab’s Wife, and What Happened to Anna K, Lea Rachel’s novel brings new life to a character that first appeared in another publication. Judith Shakespeare was originally introduced in acclaimed author Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece A Room of One’s Own—and now Judith’s full story is told in this speculative piece, which answers the ultimate question, “What if Shakespeare had been born a woman?”

The Other Shakespeare was a charming read.  I expected it to be more of a conspiracy between William and Judith, but instead got much more than I bargained for with Judith’s story.  Gender politics abound, and Judith’s frustration at her lot in life simply by being born female was palpable to me as I read the book.

I’m not terribly familiar with Virginia Woolf’s writings, so I didn’t catch all but the most obvious references to her, but I did catch a number of tips of the hat to Shakespeare throughout the book.  These little nuggets made the reading that much more interesting.

I can’t say too much more about the plot of the book for fear of inadvertently giving away the ending. But I will say that I should have seen the ending coming more quickly than I did- this is Shakespeare, after all, even if it’s Judith rather than William.

Fans of the Bard should definitely give this one a read.