Inevitably, Kells’ book is about the Shakespeare authorship controversy. This is well-covered ground, naturally, and Kells addresses some of it in this new book, focusing in particular on Elizabethan courtier and diplomat Henry Neville as a likely alternate candidate. Kells gamely investigates the case for and against Neville and a handful of other possible authors of the Shakespeare canon. The main body of the book is every bit as invigorating as The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders ... The subtitle of Kells’ book is Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature. The book itself is wonderful reading, but that mystery remains firmly locked away.
... unquestionably a lively, even sprightly book, nearly as entertaining as S. Schoenbaum’s capacious Shakespeare’s Lives, to which it is a kind of pendant ... In the end, Kells decides that the genius of Shakespeare — whoever he was — lay in his flair for 'appropriation, revision and synthesis.' Of course, he also had something of a way with words.
Kells's account of the search for Shakespeare's library leads through many fascinating bypaths of book history ... While no one has yet found Shakespeare's library, Kells hopes new leads may yet surface. The work takes an unfortunate detour into the Cloud Cuckoo Land of the authorship question, claiming Ben Jonson and John Florio greatly improved Shakespeare's mediocre plays ... Still, an enjoyable excursion into Shakespearean (and non-Shakespearean) booklore.
This volume offers up a freewheeling ramble and scramble through several centuries of research into Shakespeare ... This book is a long sniffing-out, a detailing of details and a delight in arcana; its research is prodigious though it might have been buttressed by footnotes, so that the reader could establish the truth(s) of its account ... Even granting this author the license of devotion to his subject, one wishes he would not compare—as he does in his opening pages—young Shakespeare to the actors Russell Crowe and Russell Brand. The bulk of the book describes the various searches for texts that Shakespeare penned or read or owned, and fascinating portraits lie scattered throughout.
...the iconic image of the flawless Bard loses credibility in Kells’ riveting account of a streetwise poet who rarely missed a trick as he made his fortune in the rough-and-tumble world of Elizabethan drama and book publishing. This savvy operator left to mysterious other hands the task of collecting and editing his works for posterity. To read, or not to read? Here, there’s no question!
On the whole, Kells delivers reams of arcane bibliographical information with humor and wit. Even though the narrative bogs down in the middle under the figurative weight of bibliomania, overall, this is an enchanting work that bibliophiles will savor and Shakespeare fans adore.
Historian Kells...delivers a fascinating examination of a persistent literary mystery: William Shakespeare’s library ... Shakespeare fans will surely be riveted by the new information brought to light in Kells’s rich literary survey.