Ah, sweet obsession.
The things we do — and don’t do — for love. No one knows this better than Horatio, a divinity scholar struggling to compose a play for the Baron de Maricourt, a bumbly and oblivious man who keeps his most prized possession — his wife, the Lady Adriane — locked tight away. Not in a financial position to refuse, Horatio is commissioned to “translate” a romance into a full-blown play complete with music and song. Unlike her husband, Adriane is literate — and assists Horatio in the endeavor.
As he becomes more and more entrenched in the baron’s words and spends his time pulling sonnets and words like blood from a stone, Horatio happens upon Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and finds himself most suddenly in the young prince’s good graces. What follows is a complicated and sexually-charged love triangle that finds Horatio torn between two unlikely lovers — and at odds with the written word, once his most cherished companion.
Myrlin A. Hermes’ The Lunatic, The Lover, And The Poet is a novel twist on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and his many sonnets, written on Shakespeare’s mysterious “Dark Lady” and an androgynous young man. With deft prose and a wildly entertaining storyline, Hermes definitely manages to take much of what I knew about the Bard and turn it “topsy-turvy,” just as the cover boasts.
I’ve read reviews stating at least a working knowledge of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is required to enjoy the novel and while I can certainly understand where those readers coming from, I actually didn’t find my lack of knowledge to be too much of a disadvantage. I knew little of Hamlet beyond the famous “to be or not to be” spiel — and still found plenty to love in the novel. At several points, it became obvious that inside jokes and references to the original work were carefully woven into many pages — though I couldn’t fully appreciate them without being more comfortable with the original story.
Still, I can say honestly that once I sunk into The Lunatic, The Lover, And The Poet, it was difficult to put down. I’ll contribute my obsession with the story to Horatio’s obsession with Prince Hamlet; my interest was really piqued right around that point, too. The way that Hamlet is described makes it difficult to not fall a little in love with him, too, even with all his preening, selfishness and narcissism. And for all the gloom and seriousness embodied in Horatio’s character, Hermes’ writing was surprisingly light, fun and artful.
In fact, the writing was what I loved most about the story. Hermes finds a way to blend Shakespearean-like prose with modern terms in a way that’s shockingly not jarring — and actually made the tale feel more “modern,” though of course it’s set in Shakespeare’s day. For all his faults and silliness, I found myself oddly endeared to Horatio, the prince and Lady Adriane, even when I wanted to clock each of them on the side of the head for their foolish decisions.
Hermes captures feelings of uncertainty, joy, selfishness, obsession and jealousy with a truly creative and artful pen. Her novel is a treat for fans of historical fiction and, most especially, lovers of classic tales retold. Fans of Hamlet will definitely appreciate the book in a different way than the rest of us . . . but for the rest of us? A rollicking good time.
4 out of 5!
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours