To be honest I’m pretty sure that The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber is the most confusing book that I have ever read; admittedly I probably should have guessed that it would be confusing as the entire book is written in a series of poems. But I thought that it’d be fine as I’m taking English as well as history, but as it turns out I’m not very good at Shakespearian English.
The plot of the book is what made me decide to read the book, and once you decipher the poetry and understand the plot, the book is quite interesting. The book is about Christopher Marley, who later becomes Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, throughout his life as he becomes famous under his own name, becomes an intelligence agent for Sir Francis Walsingham before being stabbed in a fight. Up until this point the book sticks to well accepted historical facts about Christopher Marlowe, but the book explores the idea that Marlowe did not die but instead escaped to France to continue his intelligence work, and write plays in his spare time. As it turns out intelligence work is actually quite boring as the majority of the book seems to be taken up by him sitting in French pubs, complaining about his life or being arrested for different things (you would have thought that being arrested for heresy would be more interesting).
Overall my main problem with the book was that it was almost impossible to tell what was going on, as it gives you no warning about the beginning of different flashbacks (or one of the main characters frankly disturbing dreams). What makes this worse is that these flash backs are not always in chronological order so it’s fairly difficult to understand the series of events that lead to his “death”. Another issue I had was with telling many of the characters apart, because everyone in the book seemed to be called Thomas, and it was only because of the character list at the front that I could tell them apart.
I my opinion the book is very confusing and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is not willing to spend a large amount of time translating the poetry into something understandable, but if you are willing to spend some time on the book, the plot is an interesting idea and the characters can be fairly funny at times, but I’d have probably enjoyed the book more without the poetry.