An outstanding verse novel, which recreates the dramatic story of Christopher Marlowe's life and shows how he could have written the works attributed to Shakespeare - a provocative, persuasive and enthralling tour de force.
*WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE 2013*
On May 30th, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now Christopher Marlowe reveals the truth: that his 'death' was an elaborate ruse to avoid being convicted of heresy; that he was spirited across the Channel to live on in lonely exile; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colourless man from Stratford - one William Shakespeare.
With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this remarkable novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate and mercurial. A cobbler's son who counted nobles among his friends, a spy in the Queen's service, a fickle lover and a declared religious sceptic, he was always courting trouble.
Memoir, love letter, confession, settling of accounts and a cry for recognition as the creator of some of the most sublime works in the English language, The Marlowe Papers brings Christopher Marlowe and his era to vivid life. Written by a poet and scholar, it is a work of exceptional art, erudition and imagination.
Ros Barber is the author of three poetry collections. Her poems have featured in publications that include Poetry Review, London Magazine, the Guardian and Independent on Sunday, and in anthologies published by Faber, Virago and Anvil Press. She has a PhD on Marlowe, and jointly won the Hoffman Prize 2011 for The Marlowe Papers. She lives in Brighton and has four children.
The best book I've read for a long time. Truly innovative, truly original, and a powerful poetic journey to another truth. Ros Barber has told a great story, in a fascinating way, so fascinating that she had someone like me gripped to the very end. This really is a joy to read and a true work of art. — Benjamin Zephaniah
This rich and charmingly playful work avoids the potential for whimsy inherent in such an undertaking. The thrill at reimagining the events and era comes through wave after wave in Barber's blank verse. — Adam O'Riordan, Sunday Telegraph
This is effortlessly better stuff than many far more trumpeted poets can produce, even on a good day...The Marlowe Papers is the best read, so far, this year. — Martin Newell, Sunday Express
This terrifically accomplished and enjoyable novel/play/poem, call it what you like, restores one's faith in English fiction. — Fay Weldon
Barber ingeniously weaves the action of the plays and sonnets into her story...The verse is subtle and varied enough never to disturb the ear, and in fact you forget that you're reading poetry at all. This is no bawdy cod-Shakespearean romp. — Suzi Feay, Financial Times
Lush, inspired and provocative, this spellbinding dossier conjures up a bewitching Marlowe. — Kirkus
'A rare find indeed - searing poetry meets compelling narrative in a historical tour de force that had me ripping through the pages.' — Robyn Young
now that I've reached the end I want to go back and read it all again...Written in Marlowe's voice the reader doesn't need to know his work or that of Shakespeare to enjoy the book and relish the accomplishment of the author...The proof copy I read is already battered with rereading. I will be buying myself a hardback copy when it comes out. Don't buy it on an e-reader, buy a proper copy and hold it lovingly as you read. — Newbooksmag.com
The Marlowe Papers grips. — John Sutherland, The Times
The Marlowe Papersis a bravura performance: a noir thriller in doublet and hose, illuminated by images as startling as lightning. — Simon Worrall, author of The Poet and the Murderer
this highly ambitious debut makes for an engrossing read...brought to life by smatterings of exquisitely poetic descriptions and turns of phrase worthy of the Bard himself, whoever he was. — David Clack, Time Out
Themes of identity and self-esteem, of truth and loyalty, give substance to Barber's enthralling plot in a work that combines historical erudition with a sharply satisfying read. Marlowe's passion infects the page; Barber's skill draws the fever. — James Urquhart, Independent
A magnificently original novel...this is a marvellous reconstruction of a life, told beautifully...A truly superb achievement. — Lesley McDowell, Glasgow Herald