Monstrous Little Voices

This little book was an unexpected finding and a lovely gift from my son. It is based on the same principle that led Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman to create Shakespeare in Love. In a certain way, it is also a literary manifestation of a concept that Marvel has brought into the movies by creating a universe where all their characters are connected and interacting at different levels. The five authors of the five short stories in this volume bring together material from different Shakespearean plays by interweaving characters, plots, and language in a wondrous world of magic, war, and human emotions. Moreover, although different writers have penned each of the stories, they are all part of an overarching narrative shaped by the terrifying dark magic coming from Macbeth.

Most characters come indeed from plays were magic is central to the story. In three out of five, the fairy world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the driving force behind the plot. From those my favourite is Kate Heartfield’s ‘The Course of True Love’. Characters from The Tempest also appear in three out of the five stories and among these Foz Meadows’ ‘Coral Bones’ is certainly the best and the most refreshing. My serious reservations go to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Even in the Canon’s Mouth’ where a number of characters from various plays are brought together in an unconvincing way and behave in an even less plausible manner. Above all, the insertion of too many famous lines in the characters’ speeches gives the whole text an overt self-conscious artificiality. On the other hand, if I had to choose the best story in the collection, my prize would certainly go to Jonathan Barnes’ ‘On The Twelfth Night’. This is a brilliant psychological thriller with a poignant ending that brings to life the most forgotten person in the Shakespearean real and fictional universe, his wife Anne.

Highly recommended.

Barnes, J., Tchaikovsky, A., Newman, E. Heartfield, K., and Meadows, F. (215) Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World. London: Abaddon Books.