Shakespeare's Sonnets: A Novel
by Samuel Park
"Jean Hayman--man of many faces, jack of all trades, friend to man but lover to none--sat on the windowsill of his room, smoking a cigarette. He was twenty-one years of age, tall and thin, with hazel eyes that burned with the fire of youth waiting for life to begin."(p 10)
I found this novel engaging and a good story about young men at Harvard in the period following the second World War. The young men are the socialite Adam Standridge, who is working hard to become the heterosexual that he is afraid that he is not meant to be, and Jean Hayman, who is not sure if he should pursue the secrets of Shakespeare's Sonnets or his secret love for Adam. The combination of class conflict and the tension of developing homosexual relationships in that era seemed to ring true. I particularly enjoyed the use of Shakespeare's Sonnets as background for the contemporary setting. My enjoyment led me to get out my copy of the the sonnets and start rereading some of them. I think meditation on the sonnets referred to in the text and others heightened my enjoyment of the novel. While the novel was not long the issues presented deserved serious reflection and that too is something I enjoy in any book. I would recommend this to anyone interested in novels set in academia.
My glass shall not persuade me I am old
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time's furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days shoul expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me;
How can I then be elder than thou art?
Presume no on thy heart when mine is slain;
Thou gav'st me thine not to give back again.
- William Shakespeare, Sonnet XXII
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