Peter Byerly is an antiquarian restorer and book dealer. He is also in mourning for his wife Amanda. His friends and family despair of him ever pulling himself out of his funk.
One day while leafing through an old volume on Shakespeare forgeries, he finds a watercolor portrait of what looks like his late wife. It’s can’t be, because this picture was painted during the Victorian era.
This starts him on a journey to discover the truth about the painting and the book in which it was found. He also tries to tackle the mystery of whether Shakespeare actually wrote his masterpieces. The story moves back and forth in time, and I won’t spoil it by telling you more.
The Bookman’s Tale has been compared to Shadow of the Wind, another great story about book obsession. I can see it, but this actually reminded me more of The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, in that the book itself is almost a character. Some of the coincidences in this story are a bit too convenient, and there’s a little supernatural element towards the end that I felt didn’t really fit. If you love books, however, I think you’ll like this.
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