Monday, December 04, 2017

Historical Novel, "The Quality of Mercy"

I borrowed an old Faye Kellerman book, "The Quality of Mercy," and found it very long and overstuffed with plot and history. Some people may consider it strange that I'm reviewing a book that's over twenty years old, but it's still for sale new, used and audial.

The copy I read had been bought by someone in a 2nd hand bookstore very recently. Print is small, and there are just under six hundred, yes 600, pages. If you have good eyes and lighting, that can keep you busy on a very long flight or two. This copy followed me around for about two months, during which I also read a couple of other books.

The Quality of Mercy is a historical novel that tries to give answers to a few questions. Literary historians for centuries have been trying to discover more about William Shakespeare:

  • Was Shakespeare a real person?
  • Was Shakespeare Jewish?
  • Was Shakespeare a homosexual?
  • About which people and events did Shakespeare write his great plays and sonnets?
Kellerman's novel tries to answer many of these questions. Actually, she does answer the first three in The Quality of Mercy and poses some interesting possibilities concerning the fourth. She does this by expanding on a Jew/converso who did live at the same time as Shakespeare, Doctor Roderigo Lopez, and his family. The book revolves the supposed relationship between Shakespeare and a daughter of Lopez. Kellerman embroiders an amazing and complex tapestry of love, intrigue and adventure. 

Like in every good historical novel, it's all "possible." I think that it would be much more readable and successful if it had been better edited. We really don't need all of the subplots, backstories and details to get the main points of the book. Kellerman is a good writer and obviously invested a lot of time and energy (or staff) researching. 

If you enjoy long sagas based on real history, especially if you're well acquainted with the works of Shakespeare, this is the book for you. I must admit that at times it was tedious, but I'm glad that I persevered, because it was worth the effort. So if you spot the book second hand some place, and you have the time to invest, get it. Tell me what you think afterwards.

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