Saturday, 19 March 2016

Book Review: Death's Duel - A Novel of John Donne by Garry O'Connor

Title: Death's Duel: A Novel of John Donne
Author: Garry O'Connor
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Publication Date: 2015 
Pages: 228

Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

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Fear and distrust are eating out the heart of Elizabethan England.

Around half of the people in England were reckoned to be Catholics but they are being hunted down and persecuted, and any who are seen to be harbouring them are put to the death.

To tap the priests who tried to minister to them – or to the noble families who were their figureheads – an army of spies, blackmailers, informers and law enforcers has been enlisted.

John Donne, the famous love poet, and later Dean of St Paul’s is torn between damning his soul and renouncing his Catholic heritage, or damning his body by going against his Queen and country, and failing to practice the Protestant faith.

In the intense ‘witch-hunt’ which follows, he becomes black-listed as someone to watch out for.

After being set upon by a young man convinced he is a Catholic rebel, Donne is forced into a duel. And to his dismay, he kills his Scottish rival.

Donne doesn’t know which way to turn and soon he is pursued by unknown forces who want justice for the crime he has committed.

Things are complicated further by the machinations of his mistress, the cold-hearted yet tantalizing Kate Ferrars, who tempts him to a fate worse than self destruction.

As the tortured poet wriggles this way and that to escape his mysterious fate, a series of mounting climaxes brings this authentic and majestic tale to a fitting and macabre end.
(Goodreads Synopsis)

This book caught my attention because of its subject. I was familiar with some of Donne's poems, but knew little about the man behind them. Now, obviously this is fiction and not a scholarly biography, but I thought it would still make a nice introduction. I found the character fascinating, and the plot was nicely paced and kept me turning the pages. There were a handful of typos (enough to make me take note and comment on them), but otherwise the prose was readable and enjoyable. The period setting came across well, and overall the book left me interested in learning more about Donne.

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