Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

Date Completed: August 5, 2007
Pages: 466
Publication Year: 2007 (Harper Collins)
Received from Harper Collins in 2007

Reason for Reading: To be honest, I have had my eyes on it for a while because I like the cover... I decided to see if the inside matched up with the outside.

A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured to death . . .

A lost manuscript and its secrets buried for centuries . . .

An encrypted map that leads to incalculable wealth . . .

The Washington Post called Michael Gruber's previous work "a miracle of intelligent fiction and among the essential novels of recent years." Now comes his most intellectually provocative and compulsively readable novel yet.

Tap-tapping the keys and out come the words on this little screen, and who will read them I hardly know. I could be dead by the time anyone actually gets to read them, as dead as, say, Tolstoy. Or Shakespeare. Does it matter, when you read, if the person who wrote still lives?

These are the words of Jake Mishkin, whose seemingly innocent job as an intellectual property lawyer has put him at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began when a fire in an antiquarian bookstore revealed the hiding place of letters containing a shocking secret, concealed for four hundred years. In a frantic race from New York to England and Switzerland, Jake finds himself matching wits with a shadowy figure who seems to anticipate his every move. What at first seems like a thrilling puzzle waiting to be deciphered soon turns into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, where no one—not family, not friends, not lovers—is to be trusted.

Moving between twenty-first-century America and seventeenth-century England, The Book of Air and Shadows is a modern thriller that brilliantly re-creates William Shakespeare's life at the turn of the seventeenth century and combines an ingenious and intricately layered plot with a devastating portrait of a contemporary man on the brink of self-discovery . . . or self-destruction.

Would it not be nice for Shakespeare to have written another play that was not found until years later? A play to appear say this year in his own hand-writing? I think it would be the most wonderful thing ever because the same plays have been rehased for centuries, it would be nice to add some new wood to the ever burning flame that surrounds Shakespeare and his works. This novel by Michael Gruber explores this idea.

I do not know what to say about this book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. My main beef with it, upon reflection, is I think it was too long. I felt like I was reading for a century, I really think this book could have been shorter and still covered everything. There were also some typos in the book, which is not the authors fault, but it really took away from the book in the beginning because there were two in the very first chapter. I hope those are fixed for the paperback version. I just had a really hard time getting sucked into this book, it took me about 100 pages, maybe even more, before I was really interested, and then I got really into it for a while, but I started to get distracted because he drags out the book. To summarize that speal: The book needs to be proofread. I would have liked it ten times better if it was shorter. It is bad when you get really into a book and then the countless pages start to drag you down, and as a result take away some of the interest you had in the book.

After that, I really enjoyed the story idea, the characters were interesting, and it sparked my imagination because I wish that Shakespeare had undiscovered plays. Then, there is the whole controversy around everything. Namely, did Shakespeare really exist, did he write all the plays, etc. This book does not really go into that, it was just something I find myself thinking as I read this book. The product of being an English major I imagine. Anyways, this book is essence a mystery that brings in regular people to find out the secret of whether Shakespeare really did write another play. There are some 17th-century letters that allude to him having done so, and I really liked the fact that the author includes the translated letters in the book (In Old English, not the modern way of speaking).

So, really, I liked this book, just the couple problems I had with it prevented me from loving it. I think that people should read it, I think it will be enjoyed by many, and it touches on a person that is at the cornerstone of literature, so you really can not top that as a subject matter. While being a mystery it is also a book about old books, and I am glad that I read it.


  1. Sounds like a great premise that didn't quite live up to what it could have been. Ah well. I'd say "maybe I'll read it someday when things are slow," except I know they'll never get slow...

  2. I agree with Heather, the premise really sounds interesting. It's too bad it dragged. Still, I think it's something I'll probably pick up one day.

  3. I am still glad I read it, but yeah, it was a disappointment to me. Other people have loved it, though, so to each their own!

  4. That's too bad because it looked and sounded great. This one may be another of the ones like Thirteenth Tale and Jonathan Strange, though, in that the divide might be firmly on one side or the other. I may give it a try sometime, but won't hurry to do so after your experience with it.

  5. It could be that you either like it or you hate it. It is really bad, though, when you open a book and within the first chapter there are huge typos! Sort of a turn off. I didn't hate the book, I just was not blown away by it.


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