The Solitary Woman of Shakespeare
Author: James Terry
When 17-year-old Abigail Walker, desperate to escape her mother´s oppressive house and her tedious factory job in the East of the United States, responded to the ad, “Man in territory seeks correspondence with adventurous gal,” she thought she had found her ticket to love and freedom. She falls in love with Henry through the lovely letters he sends her about his home in the West and agrees to travel there to become his wife. But instead she finds herself lured to a rough mining town and twice-deceived. The first surprise she discovers upon arrival in the town of Shakespeare is that she is the sole woman to have ever set foot there. The second surprise she must contend with is that her betrothed is not the young, poetic Romeo who she believed to be the writer of the letters that won her heart, but rather an impotent saloon keeper and former outlaw.
James Terry´s whimsical use of references to Shakespeare´s plays makes this novel stand out in a special way: the town of Shakespeare is akin to Prospero´s island in the The Tempest, beset by sandstorms and a blizzard instead of sea storms, the Bard´s universe is playfully woven into the setting, structure, and plot of the entire novel. With a captivating mixture of wit and wisdom, as well as masterful descriptions of the bleak yet beautiful landscape, James Terry delights the reader´s imagination while illuminating timeless lessons about the battle of the sexes and the contradictory human desires for brutality and culture.
The American western setting and time period of The Solitary Woman of Shakespeare have a resonance similar to The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, while the isolated mining town and some of the characters also remind the reader of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. It could also be the plot of a Coen Brothers film about Shakespeare –but set in the Wild West and starring a mail-order bride.
The Solitary Woman of Shakespeare is an ambitious novel both in terms of language, characters and structure. It is also a marvellously entertaining read from start to finish.
ENGLISH (UK & Comm. excl. Canada) | Sandstone Press
«Terry is a literary artist of the best sort: keen to render the world whole and crosswise.» Lee K. Abbott