Reviewed by Louise Wykes
Hidden in the language of Shakespeare's best-loved comedy Much Ado About Nothing, are several clues to an intriguing tale. It seems that the witty lovers Beatrice and Benedick had a previous youthful love affair which ended bitterly. But how did they meet, why did they part, and what brought them together again?
Messina, Sicily, 1588. Beatrice of Mantua comes to the court of her uncle Leonato, to be companion to his daughter, Hero. That fateful summer, Spanish lordling Don Pedro visits for a month-long sojourn on the island with his regiment. In his company is the young soldier Benedick of Padua.
Benedick and Beatrice begin to wage their merry war of wit, which masks the reality that they dance a more serious measure, and the two are soon deeply in love. But the pair are cruelly parted by natural disaster and man-made misunderstanding. Oceans apart, divided by war and slander, Beatrice and Benedick begin their ten-year odyssey back to Messina and each other.
In a journey that takes us from sunlit Sicily to the crippled Armada fleet and from ancient superstition to the glorious Renaissance cities of the north, Marina Fiorato tells a story of intrigue, treachery and betrayal that will shed a new light on Shakespeare's most appealing lovers.
This is a beautiful and involving story that acts as a kind of prequel to Shakespeare’s comedy tale of Much Ado About Nothing where it is hinted that two of the lovers, Beatrice and Benedick had met and fallen in love a year before the action in Shakespeare’s play.
I have to confess that I did not know the storyline of Shakespeare’s comedy so came to this book completely new to the characters of Beatrice and Benedick and don’t know how they fared in the play but I certainly want to read Shakespeare’s play to see what happened to them after this book as their love affair captured my heart.
Beatrice is sent to Messina in Sicily to be a companion to her cousin called Hero and here Beatrice idly spends her days in luxury and she witnesses a tender love scene between a Moor and his beautiful white wife (which will later be revealed to be an inspiration for Othello by Shakespeare) and it leaves Beatrice feeling unsatisfied with life in general and wondering whether she will find love in her life. Into the town arrives Don Pedro and his army including a young man called Benedick who instantly captures Beatrice’s attention and it is not long before they are sparring intellectually but underneath all those clever words lies a simmering passion.
Before their passion can be fully explored however, war intervenes and Benedick has to leave Beatrice both believing untruths about each other that won’t be proven false until nearthe end of the tale.
This is much more than a straightforward love story and comedy. There are darker undertones too including the brutality of warfare and the treatment of women and wives as men’s property but they are explored with such beautiful and engaging description that makes the reader want to read fast to discover how the lovers can be reconciled.
A passionate and absorbing tale and one which I loved reading for it’s beautiful descriptions and gripping storyline and for a marvellous depiction of a woman in 16th Century who is as feisty and as strong willed as a modern day heroine. I loved this book and would highly recommend it for lovers of Shakespeare, history and romance.
I'd like to thank Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this book and Louise for reviewieng it for the blog.