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October 04, 2016

Beatrice and Benedick

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-2-57-20-pmBeatrice and Benedick

By: Marina Fiorato

Beatrice and Benedick. Anne and Gilbert. Ron and Hermione. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  What do these delightful literary couples have in common?  Bantering, or as Shakespeare called it, “a merry war.” Such is the basis of Marina Fiorato’s prequel to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  A loving tribute to one of English literature’s first bantering couples, Beatrice and Benedick seeks to explain the unknown history of the merry war between the two strong-willed characters.  Unlike the play, however, Beatrice and Benedick is much more serious in tone, a coming-of-age story for each of them that illustrates why many people must grow up and find their own identity before they are ready to love and be loved.

As in the play, a major theme of the book is loyalty–to one’s own sex, country, family, lover, and self–and how all these competing loyalties must find some sort of balance in the heart.  As both an independent thinker and a woman, Beatrice struggles with the social conventions of her time, which compelled women to silence and obedience.  Meanwhile, Benedick must discover the hard way the meaning of true nobility and perseverance.  But in the end, we know what happens, and happily, Fiorato includes the events of the play in the final act of the book.

Though the book dragged somewhat in the middle, it was a necessary journey for the characters, but the strong points of the book were the interactions of Beatrice and Benedick, as well as a Shakespeare-like character based on one of the many hypotheses as to his historical identity.  Fiorato seamlessly included many lines from the play, yet many of her own lines were thoughtfully written as well.  If you are looking for a historical novel with romance, a strong setting, and even stronger characters, look no further.  And if you enjoy books that retell or are connected to older stories, join us for a Twice Told Tales book discussion every other month.  Our next discussion on November 22 at 2pm is about a “sequel” to the Sherlock Holmes series called The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.  We hope to see you there!


Review By:  Alison Frolik