Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review by JD: My Name is Will by Jess Winfield


 Book Stats: 

  • My Name Is Will
  • by Jess Winfield
  • ISBN: 978-0-446-50883-4
  • Pages 283: paperback
  • Twelve/Hachette Book Group, 2009
  • Genre: Humor/Historical Fiction/General Fiction

JD’s Thoughts:

You know how great it is when you find a book that is both totally original and very entertaining? Well, I’m glad to say that here is one that meets both of those criteria.

My Name Is Will, sub-titled “A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare”, intertwines the stories of a grad student named Willie Shakespeare Greenberg in 1986 and the William Shakespeare in 1582. The “current” Will is smart and infatuated with the original William Shakespeare, but is wasting away his time at university - bumming around, smoking pot, getting involved with numerous women and doing virtually no work. Back in 1582 the original Shakespeare is an eighteen-year-old Latin teacher struggling with the rapid financial and social decline of the Shakespeare family, while getting caught up in the religious and political strife of the time as the Catholic Church in England and all of its followers are driven underground.

Despite the wildly different circumstances, there are many parallels between the two Wills as they both try to navigate difficulties with work, hedonistic lifestyles, complex family circumstances, authorities, challenges, multiple sexual relationships, growing up and life-changing decisions that need to be made. As the story swings back and forth between the two Wills, the similarities and connections become ever stronger.

This is a fun book. It is clever, bawdy and flat-out funny. True to Shakespeare, it is full of puns, many of which are outrageously rude. The 1582 parts of the story are written in a kind of Olde English style, but it’s not quite as “thick” as you’ll see in Shakespeare’s work and most of the words and meanings are clear enough, and at least part of the fun is figuring out the bits you don’t immediately understand. When you do figure them out, you’re often rewarded with a chortle as another pun becomes clear. Through it all, Winfield’s own love of Shakespeare comes shining through.

Some of the blurb on the cover describes the story as delicious, original, irreverent, fascinating, cunningly witty and “Shakespeare in Love” on magic mushrooms. I’d go along with all of that. It’s Winfield’s debut novel too, which makes it an even bigger achievement. This gets 4 stars and a strong recommendation from me.

P.S. Don’t be put off if you’ve never got along with Shakespeare. This is still a fun read.


This books was won in a giveaway from A Sea of Books. Thanks Gwendolyn!

To find out more about Jess Winfield link to Hatchet’s author information page – Here.

Amazon purchasing links – US/UK/Canada and The Book Depository in Euros, and AUD.


DCMetroreader said...

This sounds like a great beginning for a new author! I love the two parallel track Wills -- cool idea!

John D said...

Hi DCMetroreader,

Thanks for the comment. I didn't know anything about Winfield until after I'd read the book. It's his first novel but he's been around a while and done lots of interesting things.

That includes being a writer and producer for Disney cartoons, and founding the Reduced Shakespeare Company whose stage show "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" has been a long running hit in the US, UK and around the world.

The 1980s Will in the novel is also loosely based on his own early life. Or at least there are many parallels and touch points. A very talented and interesting guy.

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