The Fall of a Sparrow

Written by Dan Scannell
Review by Viviane Crystal

Numerous theories exist regarding the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Contemporary historian Michael Devon finds a journal written by Henry Howard, the son of the Earl of Surrey, perhaps the real Shakespeare. The novel begins with Henry as a child, cowering behind a curtain as his father is arrested and taken to the Tower, where he will be beheaded on the command of King Henry. The story continues with the second narrative of Michael Devon and “Hank,” or Henrietta Claudia Wells, two scholar friends who love verbal sparring and looking for treasure troves in books or articles about the 16th century, Shakespeare, his peers and the prevailing politicians of the time. The theory? “Maybe, just maybe, Edward de Vere DID introduce the world to what we call the works of Shakespeare, but what if the plays and poems were actually written by someone else, someone Edward de Vere knew personally and who was somehow indebted to him?” They discover the journal written by Henry, which the remainder of the novel covers.

It’s a wonderful depiction of life in Paris with the playful conversations of friends, the mysteriously dark prophetic utterings of the famous Nostradamus, the Catholic career of a friend quickly spurned for love of a beautiful woman, jousting, literary discussions, brief selections of verse, and some verses of the time that show literary skill. The work of the master? “No, you have that which suffering will not quell/And passion strong that tempests cannot drown,/Your love for untold ages men will tell/Your names inscribed in tales of great renown…” Readers, decide! Most of all, enjoy this work of meandering through historical and contemporary reflections about Henry Howard.