Loving Will Shakespeare

Written by Carolyn Meyer
Review by S Susan Higginbotham

Just before the plague returns to England, seven-year-old Agnes (Anne) Hathaway and her family are invited to a christening by friends: John and Mary Shakespeare, who have just had a son, William. From that point on, Anne’s and Will’s lives will constantly intersect, even when the pair are miles apart.

                Despite the title, this appealing novel is not so much the story of Anne and Will’s courtship and marriage as it is of Anne’s coming of age, though the budding playwright is never very far offstage, and the love story does assume prominence in the latter part of the book. Growing up as a yeoman farmer’s daughter, Anne, the narrator, is an ordinary girl but by no means a dull one. She must cope with her difficult stepmother and half-sister, the temptations posed by men, and the deaths of loved ones. She worries over friends who choose to practice Catholicism and her increasing fear of spinsterhood, and she does so with resourcefulness and good humor. All of this plays out against the vividly rendered backdrop of life in Elizabethan England: the once-in-a-lifetime excitement of a royal progress, the annual May Day and Yuletide feasts, the periodic visitations of plague and sweating sickness, the daily business of running a farm. These elements make this an engrossing story, one that should appeal to adults as well as to the teens for whom it is intended. Ages 12 and up.