First Chapter First Paragraph: 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

At the beginning of this month I read Bernard Cornwell’s Fools and Mortals set in 1595 as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men  are rehearsing Shakespeare’s new play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  And I remembered another book that I’ve been meaning to read for over 10 years – 1599 A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro. That was the year the Globe Theatre was built and that Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar, Henry V, As You Like It and Hamlet.

1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

I’m not sure where this book actually begins – there is a Preface, then a Prologue before you get to Chapter 1 on page 27! So here are the opening lines of each.

First:

Preface

In 1599 Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company and waited to see who would succeed their ageing and childless Queen. They also flocked to London’s playhouses, including the newly built Globe.

Then:

Prologue

The weather in London in December 1598 had been frigid – so cold that ten days before New Year the Thames was nearly frozen over at London Bridge. It thawed just before Christmas, and hardy playgoers flocked to the outdoor Rose playhouse in Southwark in record numbers. But the weather turned freezing cold again on St John’s Day, the 27th, and a great snowstorm blanketed London on 28 December.

As the snow fell, a dozen or so armed men gathered in Shoreditch, in London’s northern suburbs.

The armed men then went to another playhouse, the nearby Theatre that had been vacant for two years and proceeded to dismantle the building. They took the frame to a waterfront warehouse near Bridewell Stairs to store it, ready to resurrect it as the Globe.

And at last here are the opening sentences of

Chapter  1 A Battle of Wills

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday 26 December 1598, two days before their fateful rendezvous at the Theatre, the Chamberlain’s men made their way through London’s dark and chilly streets to Whitehall Palace to perform for the Queen. Elizabeth had returned to Whitehall in mid-November in time for her Accession Day celebrations. Whitehall, her only London residence, was also her favourite palace and she spent a quarter of her reign there, especially around Christmas.

The Chamberlain’s Men were at the Palace to play the first night of the Christmas holidays, performing The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.

I think this is a book that will take me quite some time to read – it’s full of detail, not just about Shakespeare, his plays and the theatre, but also about the events of his life and times!

What do you think?  Would you continue reading? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Skeleton Road

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from her third Karen Pirie book,  The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid, a book I’m about to read.

The Skeleton Road

 

Chapter 1

Fraser Jardine wanted to die. His stomach was knotted tight, his bowels in the twisted grip of panic. A teardrop of sweat trickled down his left temple. The voice in his head sneered at his weakness, just as it had since boyhood. Biting his lip in shame, Fraser forced open the skylight and pushed it outwards. He climbed the last three steps on the ladder one at a time and gingerly emerged on the pitched roof.

Never mind that tourists would have paid for this sensational view of a city classified as a World Heritage Site. All Fraser cared about was how far he was from the ground.

I can empathise with Fraser – I’ve never liked heights and always get that terrifying feeling that I’m about to fall whenever I climb up to the top of a tall building.

Blurb:

When a skeleton is discovered hidden at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is faced with the unenviable task of identifying the bones. As Karen’s investigation gathers momentum, she is drawn deeper into a dark world of intrigue and betrayal, spanning the dark days of the Balkan Wars.

Karen’s search for answers brings her to a small village in Croatia, a place where people have endured unspeakable acts of violence. Meanwhile, someone is taking the law into their own hands in the name of justice and revenge — but when present resentment collides with secrets of the past, the truth is more shocking than anyone could have imagined . . .

I’ve read the first two Karen Pirie books and enjoyed them both, although I think the first one, The Distant Echo, is better than the second, A Darker Domain.

What do you think?  Would you continue reading? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: Fools and Mortals

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell.

Fools and Mortals

 

I died just after the clock in the passageway struck nine.

There are those who claim that Her Majesty, Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and of Ireland, will not allow clocks to strike the hour in her palaces. Time is not allowed to pass for her. She has defeated time. But that clock struck. I remember it.

I counted the bells. Nine. Then my killer struck.

And I died.

 

Blurb:

A dramatic new departure for international bestselling author Bernard Cornwell, FOOLS AND MORTALS takes us into the heart of the Elizabethan era, long one of his favourite periods of British history.

Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry – and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory – propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal.

Showcasing his renowned storyteller’s skill, Bernard Cornwell has created an Elizabethan world incredibly rich in its portrayal: you walk the London streets, stand in the palaces and are on stage in the playhouses, as he weaves a remarkable story in which performances, rivalries and ambition combine to form a tangled web of intrigue.

This is Bernard Cornwell’s latest book, published on 19th October 2017 and as the blurb says is a new departure for him, set in the Elizabethan era – in 1595 as William Shakespeare and his company are preparing to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve read over half of this book and I’m enjoying it immensely.

What do you think?  Would you continue reading? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Dry

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from The Dry  by Jane Harper, her debut novel, which has received many accolades and is shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger award. The Gold Dagger is awarded to the best crime novel of the year.

The Dry

Prologue

It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blow flies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.

The drought had left the flies spoiled for choice that summer. They sought out unblinking eyes and sticky wounds as the farmers of Kierwarra levelled their rifles at skinny livestock. No rain meant no feed. And no feed made for difficult decisions as the tiny town shimmered under day after day of burning blue sky.

Chapter One

Even those who didn’t darken the door of the church from one Christmas to the next could tell there would be more mourners than there were seats. A bottleneck of black and grey was already forming at the entrance as Aaron Falk drove up, trailing a cloud of dust and cracked leaves.

Blurb:

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

It’s not only shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger it has also received:

  • The Gold Australian Book Industry Award for Book of the Year
  • Australian Book Industry Award for Fiction Book of the Year
  • Waterstones Thriller of the Month
  • The Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club Choice
  • Sunday Times Crime Thriller of the Month

What do you think?  Would you continue reading? 

When a book receives so much praise I’m sometimes sceptical and avoid a book for a while at least. But with The Dry I think that I’d just sticking my head in the sand. I’ll be reading it very soon.

 

First Chapter First Paragraph: An Artist of the Floating World

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, who has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

An Artist of the Floating World (Faber Fiction Classics) by [Ishiguro, Kazuo]

It begins:

If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the Bridge of Hesitation’ you will not have  to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingko trees. Even if it did not occupy such a commanding position on the hill, the house would still stand out from all others nearby, so that as you come up the path, you may find yourself wondering what sort of wealthy man owns it.

Blurb (from Amazon):

It is 1948. Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War Two, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated artist, Masuji Ono, fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson; his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past – to a life and career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism – a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity.

There are some books that draw me in right from the beginning – and this is one of them. I’m hoping it lives up to its promise. I like the way Ishiguro paints a picture setting the scene in my mind as though I’m standing there looking at the view.

What do you think?  Would you continue reading?

 

First Chapter First Paragraph: A Darker Domain

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from one of the library books I featured in my last post. A Darker Domain by Val McDermid, the second Karen Pirie book.

A Darker Domain (Karen Pirie, #2)

 

It begins:

Wednesday 23 January 1985; Newton of Wemyss

The voice is soft, like the darkness that encloses them. ‘You ready?’

‘As I’ll ever be.’

‘You’ve told her what to do?’ Words tumbling now, tripping over each other, a single stumble of sounds.

‘Don’t worry. She knows what’s what. She’s under no illusions about who’s going to carry the can if this goes wrong.’ Sharp words, sharp tone. ‘She’s not the one I’m worrying about.’

Blurb (fromAmazon):

Val McDermid, creator of TV’s Wire in the Blood, mixes fact with fiction, dealing with one of the most important and symbolic moments in recent history.

Twenty-five years ago, the daughter of the richest man in Scotland and her baby son were kidnapped and held to ransom. But Catriona Grant ended up dead and little Adam’s fate has remained a mystery ever since. When a new clue is discovered in a deserted Tuscan villa – along with grisly evidence of a recent murder – cold case expert DI Karen Pirie is assigned to follow the trail.

She’s already working a case from the same year. During the Miners’ Strike of 1984, pit worker Mick Prentice vanished. He was presumed to have broken ranks and fled south with other ‘scabs’… but Karen finds that the reported events of that night don’t add up. Where did he really go? And is there a link to the Grant mystery?

The truth is stranger – and far darker – than fiction.

I’ve only recently become a fan of Val McDermid’s books and wish that I’d started reading them years ago.

What do think? Have you read this one or any of her other books? Would you keep on reading?

 

First Chapter First Paragraph: Falling in Love

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from a library book that I’ll be reading soon, Falling in Love by Donna Leon. It’s the 24th Commissario Brunetti novel.

Falling in Love (Brunetti 24)

It begins:

The woman knelt over her lover, her face, her entire body stiff with terror, staring at the blood on her hand. He lay on his back, one arm flung out, palm upturned as if begging her to place something into it; his life, perhaps. She had touched his chest, urging him to get up, so they could get out of there, but he hadn’t moved, so she had shaken him, the same old sleepy-head who never wanted to get out of bed.

Blurb (from back cover):

As an opera superstar at La Fenice in Venice, Flavia is well acquainted with attention from adoring fans and aspiring singers. But when anonymous admirer inundates her with bouquets of yellow roses, which start to appear in her dressing room and even inside her locked apartment, she begins to fear for her safety and calls in an old friend.

Enter Commissario Brunetti.

But soon the threat becomes more serious. Brunetti must enter the psyche of an obsessive fan and find the culprit before anyone, especially Flavia, comes to harm.

I’ve only read a few of the Brunetti novels and certainly not in the order they were written. Apparently Flavia appeared in the first book, Death at La Fenice, in which Flavia Petrelli, one of Italy’s finest living sopranos had been the prime suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor – until Brunetti cleared her name.

This title doesn’t say this book is crime fiction to me. What do you think?