My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare

Published By: Twelve

Book Category: Fiction, Historical

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Reviewed by Maria Elmvang

Meet Willie Shakespeare Greenberg – a struggling thesis-writer, small-scale drug user and future scholar. Meet also William Shakespeare – a womanizing youth, closeted Catholic and future bard. Two men, 300 years apart in time, but joined by name and history.

My Name Is Will is the story of two Wills who have more in common than one would think at a first glance, because really – isn’t it almost sacrilege to suggest that a 1986’s pothead and wanna-be thesis writer should have anything at all in common with the greatest bard in English history? At the surface, one would think so, but then, how much do we know about Shakespeare’s life before he became… well, Shakespeare?

Isn’t it very logical to assume that his life couldn’t have been all smooth sailing for him to be able to write of such passionate love and dysfunctional families as we see in his plays and sonnets? Jess Winfield clearly thinks so, and manages to weave a fascinating tale where every second chapter follows William Shakespeare in the weeks up to his marriage to Anne Hathaway, and every second chapter follows Willie Shakespeare in his quest for knowledge about himself, and his famous namesake.

In the beginning one has to get used to the jumping back and forth in time as each chapter ends, but like in Peg Kerr’s The Wild Swans, the transitions work and the two stories in one mesh together very well as I constantly found hints in one of what would happen (or had happened) in the other.

My Name Is Will is subtitled “A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakepeare” for a good reason. It is not very reverent, and Shakespeare lovers who are easily offended should probably stay clear of the book. However, I appreciated seeing even a fictionalized human side of the legendary bard. It is perhaps not a very scholarly read, but definitely a very enjoyable one.

Oh and yes, we are given at least a hint of an answer to the old and burning question: why did Shakespeare leave Anne his “second-best bed” in his will.

Armchair Interviews says: Learn and laugh at the same time.

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