Bill Bryson's voice (both actual and literary) shine through in this short work, detailing what is known and knowable about William Shakespeare. Because little is known about Shakespeare, this book has less of the amusing anecdotes that make books like "In a Sunburned Country" such a delight. It's quite frustrating to realize that we know so little about a figure so important to English literature. Still it is an interesting exposition on an interesting man, or rather, what we expect is an interesting man. The audiobook it self is only a little over 5 hours long, but (as of November 2007) there is an interview with Bryson appended on end for another bit. I liked it, but then I expect that I would enjoy Bryson writing about asparagus. The chapter where he discusses the various theories about Shakespeare not actually writing the plays of Shakespeare is the best part; but there the book ends. In the end it is a barely satifying book because of the paucity of the material, but it is a book that is well written and narrated.
This is a well written, well researched history. The author it clear when a point is just not known (this is good), and he makes excellent connections between the epidemic and science of Victorian England and that of today. The epilogue, which is perhaps overlong, is an interesting, well thought out extension of his subject to the world today and in the future. It's well narrated. An interesting 8 hours which might have been an even more interesting 7.
Get this book and be the judge for yourself. For me, it probably is. I've read it on paper several times. This recording captures all of the feeling, tension, and complexity of the novel, and the different actors who read some of the parts only help. The main narrator does a terrific job as well. Remember, if you've heard bad things about the long (multi-author) Dune series, that this novel stands on its own. This just may be my new favorite audio book.
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