Dark Aemilia (Sally O'Reilly)

Article by liz

This (literally!) spellbinding tale of passion, poetry, and a mother’s love will entrap you from the start. Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, a historical contender for the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s later sonnets, comes vividly to life in this bewitching novel. Her powerful voice refuses to be silenced through the betrayal of lovers, the despair of plague, and more. Famed for her intelligence and “dark” looks, Aemilia lives comfortably at court as the mistress of Lord Henry Hunsdon--until a young William Shakespeare ensnares her, heart and soul. Their passionate, violent affair, short-lived though it may seem at first, binds them together for the rest of their lives, as Aemilia strives for recognition as a poet and playwright in a world where women can be no such things.

Sally O’Reilly beautifully paints Aemilia in enchanting, lyrical prose: a Lady Macbeth swinging between lucid, sharp fury and a dreamlike daze of pain. There’s plenty here for Shakespeare fans to love: though the man himself (probably rightfully) doesn’t come off as a prince, exactly, a reverence for the work above all else shines through. Poetry, in DARK AEMILIA, is sacrosanct. There are dozens of tidbits and treasures for Shakespeare buffs to adore--including a brilliant origin story for The Scottish Play (and its curse). Historical figures high and low, from Queen Elizabeth and Sir Thomas Wriothesley to Richard Burbage and Moll Cutpurse, fill the scenes of DARK AEMILIA, but O’Reilly never lets her meticulous research bog down the lyricism and magic (did I mention there’s witchcraft?) of Aemilia’s life. With wonderful detail and agonizing sensuality, DARK AEMILIA spins a compelling tale of a secret, forgotten literary affair that might have been.

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9781250048134
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Picador - May 27th, 2014

Article Type Terms: