The Marlowe Papers: longlisted for the Women’s Prize For Fiction (former Orange Prize) 2013, longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2013, shortlisted for the Author’s Club First Novel Award 2013
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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
The Marlowe Papers is published in the UK by Sceptre and in the US by St Martin’s Press.
‘Barber ingeniously weaves the action of the plays and sonnets into her story…The verse is subtle and varied enough never to disturb the ear, and in fact you forget that you’re reading poetry at all. This is no bawdy cod-Shakespearean romp.’ (Suzi Feay, Financial Times )
‘A rare find indeed – searing poetry meets compelling narrative in a historical tour de force that had me ripping through the pages.’ (Robyn Young )
‘now that I’ve reached the end I want to go back and read it all again…Written in Marlowe’s voice the reader doesn’t need to know his work or that of Shakespeare to enjoy the book and relish the accomplishment of the author…The proof copy I read is already battered with rereading. I will be buying myself a hardback copy when it comes out. Don’t buy it on an e-reader, buy a proper copy and hold it lovingly as you read.’ (Newbooksmag.com )
‘The Marlowe Papers grips.’ (John Sutherland, The Times )
‘The Marlowe Papers is a bravura performance: a noir thriller in doublet and hose, illuminated by images as startling as lightning.’ (Simon Worrall, author of The Poet and the Murderer )
‘this highly ambitious debut makes for an engrossing read…brought to life by smatterings of exquisitely poetic descriptions and turns of phrase worthy of the Bard himself, whoever he was.’ (Time Out )