Shakespeare Saved My Life

Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (155 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been before - supermax solitary confinement. In this unwelcoming place, surrounded by inmates known as the worst of the worst, is Larry Newton. A convicted murderer with several escape attempts under his belt and a brilliantly agile mind on his shoulders, Larry was trying to break out of prison at the same time Laura was fighting to get her program started behind bars. Thus begins the most unlikely of friendships, one bonded by Shakespeare and lasting years - a friendship that, in the end, would save more than one life.

©2013 Laura Bates (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

" Macbeth and Hamlet are the primary targets of examination, but the inmates take fresh approaches to several plays." ( Booklist)

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  • Overall
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Stunning and Disturbing

What made the experience of listening to Shakespeare Saved My Life the most enjoyable?

Can't really name one thing...it all worked together to make a great story.

What other book might you compare Shakespeare Saved My Life to and why?

Henrietta Lack's story had a similar effect on me. The stories are so intriguing and to know they are true stories leaves me speechless.

What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

She's got a lovely voice, and can take on different characters without a hitch.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes. Neither laugh nor cry just left me stunned.

Any additional comments?

Highly recommend. This is a world I would never ever venture into. Laura Bates does a terrific job of ushering us (safely from our comfy armchairs) through a difficult and dangerous world.

10 people found this helpful

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Shakespeare Fan or Not-worth the listen

This book is not about Shakespeare as much as it is about dedication and redemption. Hard to stop listening. Well written and narrated, this is an amazing story of the profound difference the misunderstood can make. I am not a fan of Shakespeare and never could follow it. However, the insight into the path of a convicted killer is sadly tragic. Author Laura Bates is an amazing woman and convict, student, author Larry and amazing man!
But for the grace of God...

5 people found this helpful

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Redemption & Friendship Change the World.

I expected a little more analysis of Shakespeare, and that was an element which I both dreaded and anticipated. What the book gave me though was an intimate glimpse into a very sweet relationship between the author and man who was spending life in prison and a great deal of it in segregation. This man was a murderer and a thief, but he was also human. He desired an education, a relationship and connections with the outside world. The author let us see that part of the man. I found it intriguing and complicated; I found it to be real and sweet and entertaining. This is one of those books that will make you think and feel. Now, if it had been a bit longer and had explored Shakespeare more as I expected based on the title and the editor's description this book may have received 5 stars.

Cassandra Campbell's narration was beautifully subtle. I felt as though I was listening to the author tell her own story -- not like someone else reading her book. I love when a narrator can meld seamlessly into the story and virtually disappear. Ms. Campbell does that here.

3 people found this helpful

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Wow . . . I like books that make me really think!

I really enjoyed reading this book, especially for the reasons that have already been stated. Mixed emotions . . . education in prison . . . for free? Two sides to that story!

Details of life in prison were fascinating.
Larry translating the plays into current day situations and lingo.
The Shakespeare group of inmates and their discussions.
The brilliant questions and answers in the dialogues between Laura and Larry.

Do I recommend this? Yes, and let yourself be drawn in. Question your opinion of Laura, Larry, the prison system. I would stop listening occasionally, come back to reality, acknowledge the unique story line and enjoy the debate that was going on in my head.

2 people found this helpful

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Shakespeare fans get the plays instead!

Bad news: I can read very good writing and research on the sad impact of child abuse, poverty, and the difficult life in any juvenile incarceration facility. But, to use her talent as an educator and to exploit her dissertation research subjects in this way is inexcusable.

Good news: This motivated me to download the better writer of this book.....Shakespeare.

1 person found this helpful

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Just wow.

Absolutely amazing book. Definitely read it!!
This book changed how I look at myself, Shakespeare life and what we can do for others

1 person found this helpful

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I had no idea of what I was about to listen to.

I thought that this might be dry or boring but it definitely wasn't. It actually helped me understand Shakespeare more as well as giving me a peak of the authors experience working in Super Max.

1 person found this helpful

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amazing must listen

a lot of thought to do after the listen with respect to how what Larry undergoes in isolation relates to other mental health challenges

amazing insights

narrator wonderfully on track in her voice changes for the different characters, significantly improved the listen

almost has me wanting to read Shakespeare. when she gets the book out on it I might

1 person found this helpful

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This will change your view of prisons

This book would be terrifically uplifting if it were not for the culminating events of the memoir, which prove that prisons are definitely NOT correctional institutions but often vehicles for revenge and totally unfair treatment of those incarcerated in them. The insights derived by prisoners from reading Shakespeare are difficult to conceive of, given their background education, but what one man of about a 5th-grade education is able to accomplish is very hopeful and should inform changes in the criminal justice system as it now stands in states like Indiana. An inspiring and saddening read!

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Provocative

A powerful story on several levels. Made me want to read Shakespeare and to rethink the prisons we put ourselves in. Laura and Larry are people I’d like to know!