The world of the Bard is ever fascinating and an endless source of literary inspiration. In this memoir-style account of William Shakespeare's fictional daughter, the author offers an intriguing view of life inside the family of this famous and prolific playwright. Leaving aside the age-old argument of the real author of this invaluable body of literature, we meet Shakespeare's family in a more intimate setting, as seen from the eyes of those who live on the other side of genius.
In this incarnation, Shakespeare has three children and a quasi-estranged wife. Little Judith is twin to Hamnet and they are virtually inseparable, their older sister rarely part of their secret world. The twins adore their famous father and they miss him grievously, as he is often in London or rehearsing with his band of players. Like most small girls, Judy looks up to her father as a godlike figure; she resorts to casting imaginary "spells" to compel him return home.
When tragedy decimates her small, childish world, Judy suffers greatly and blames herself for the misfortune, as young children often do. But when she discovers a copy of Shakespeare's manuscript for a new play, she is devastated, believing her father is using the family's tragedy as grist for his insatiable manipulation of words. Her very heart wounded, Judy views this play as an affront to her own sorrow.
Beginning as a childish plot to even the score with a thoughtless father, her plan simmers over the years as Judy grows into gawky adolescence. After considerable planning, she runs away to London, dressed as a boy and intent on exposing her father's coldhearted machinations on stage, in front of the audience. The errant daughter sees all in black and white until confronted with the sheer power of the Globe Theater and the heady perfume of performance. Smitten, Judy knows only her desire to perform on that stage herself. In the course of events, the exposť doesn't go exactly as planned and Judy gains a new appreciation for her own talent, understanding the more complicated motives for her journey. Her father, in turn, reveals private thoughts of his own, mitigating Judy's feelings toward him and their relationship.
Judith Shakespeare is an engaging character, certainly appealing in her emotional confusion, the judgmental extremes of which slowly mature into the more grounded reality of a young woman. What I find particularly compelling is author Grace Tiffany's skill in portraying Judith's frustrations as a multi-talented bywith her individuality and independence. Her charming unpredictability lies in the duality of life for a woman with limited choices, but whose mind envisions a different world. Conform she may, as best she can, but this is a spirit that will not be constrained. Indeed, what might it be like to be the daughter of such a man? Who could refrain from grand dreams of her own?