Book: The Sonnet Lover
Author: Carol Goodman
Summary: Did Shakespeare pen a series of passionate sonnets, unknown to modern scholarship, ardently praising a mysterious dark-haired beauty? This tantalizing question is raised in a letter to literature professor Rose Asher. But the letter’s author, Rose’s star pupil, is not telling: a troubled, enigmatic young man, he plunged to his death in front of the college’s entire faculty, an apparent suicide. Determined to find the truth, Rose journeys from New York to Italy, back to the magnificent Tuscan villa where as an undergraduate she first fell in love. La Civetta is a dreamlike place, resplendent with the heady scent of lemon trees and the sunset’s ochre wash across its bricks and cobbles. Once there Rose finds her first love still in residence. Torn between her mission and her rekindled feelings, Rose becomes enmeshed in a treacherous tangle of secrets and scandal. A folio containing what some believe to be one of Shakespeare’s lost sonnets has vanished, and literary immortality awaits whoever finds the manuscript - as do a vast Italian estate and a Hollywood movie deal. Uncertain whom she can trust and where she can turn, Rose races against time and unseen enemies in a bid to find the missing masterpiece. Lush, lyrical, and enthralling, The Sonnet Lover vividly brings to life the Tuscan countryside and the fascinating world of the Renaissance poets. Unmatched in her ability to evoke atmosphere and intrigue, Carol Goodman delivers her most ambitious and satisfying work to date, a seductive novel that skillfully propels its reader headlong to the final suspenseful page. - Ballantine Books, 2007
Oh, Carol Goodman, you can do me no wrong. Once again, she gives another amazing read that I finished quickly because it was so good.
This book is one of her later works and it centers on Italy and Shakespeare, two of my favorite things. Of the Goodman novels I’ve read so far, this one is definitely in my top three. The imagery she evokes of Italy is gorgeous and I adore the storyline to bits. Who doesn’t dream of making that big discovery in finding the unpublished works of your favorite writer?
The mystery/thriller element is full of twists and turns where you think you know the answer, but then another possibility comes to take its place. It’s truly well down and the fact that Goodman manages to balance it on top of a journey of discover and a little romance on the side is incredible. She doesn’t let any of her plot lines suffer and I’m thankful for that because all of them were equally interesting.
What’s nice is that she doesn’t take the easy way out and focus solely on the Shakespeare aspect of the “Shakespeare and his Dark Lady” plot line. She focuses instead on the “Dark Lady” herself, giving her an identity and a past. It’s truly fascinating and I really enjoyed it.
One could argue that her characterization is a little weak. She introduces this strong female character, but sometimes that character could get uncharacteristically weepy. I’m being picky I know, but it’s still a good story. Some of the characters, not all, fall into a school stereotype, but they’re used productively so I can’t fault her for that.
The ending itself is a bit ambiguous, but it’s cute. It made me smile at the end of it all.
Overall, I truly enjoyed this book and I have yet to find a Carol Goodman book that I dislike entirely.
I give The Sonnet Lover an A.
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