The Marlowe Papers (2012)

Winner of the Desmond Elliot Prize 2013, joint winner of the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award 2013. Longlisted for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2013. Observer Books of the Year 2012.  Joint winner of the Hoffman Prize 2011.

‘The most complete Marlowe I’ve ever encountered.’ – Will Self
‘This terrifically accomplished and enjoyable novel… restores one’s faith in English fiction.’ – Fay Weldon
‘It is as enticing as a top-flight thriller, with the welcome addition of gorgeous, evocative language as visual and concise as a screenplay.’ – Joanne Harris
‘The best book I’ve read for a long time. Truly innovative, truly original, and a powerful poetic journey to another truth. Ros Barber has told a great story, in a fascinating way, so fascinating that she had someone like me gripped to the very end. This really is a joy to read and a true work of art.’ – Benjamin Zephaniah
‘A rare find indeed – searing poetry meets compelling narrative in a historical tour de force that had me ripping through the pages.’  – Robyn Young
See also reviews. Want to read a sample of The Marlowe Papers?   Click here and use the ‘Look Inside’ feature.

The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber

On May 30th, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now let Christopher Marlowe tell you the truth: that his ‘death’ was an elaborate ruse to avoid his being hanged for heresy; that he was spirited across the channel to live on in lonely exile, longing for his true love and pining for the damp streets of London; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colourless man from Stratford – one William Shakespeare.

With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this extraordinary novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, mercurial and not altogether trustworthy. The son of a cobbler who rose so far in Elizabethan society that he counted nobles among his friends and patrons, a spy in the Queen’s service, a fickle lover and a declared religious sceptic, he was always courting trouble. When it caught up with him, he was lucky to have connections powerful enough to help him escape.

Memoir, love letter, settling of accounts and a cry for recognition as the creator of some of the most sublime works in the English language, this is Christopher Marlowe’s testament – and a tour de force by an award-winning poet: provocative, persuasive and enthralling

For video extracts from the book, and Ros talking about the process of writing and researching The Marlowe Papers, go to 

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