Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines
John Crowley
Subterranean Press, 92 pages

The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines
John Crowley
John Crowley was born December 1, 1942 in Presque Isle, Maine. This American author of science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream fiction, studied at Indiana University. He is best known as the author of the fantasy book Little, Big (1981), which won the World Fantasy Award. His shorter Great Work of Time, which was originally included in the story collection Novelty, was later reprinted as a separate paperback after it won the 1990 World Fantasy Award. He has had a second career as a documentary film writer. In 1993, Crowley took up a post at Yale University where he began teaching courses in Utopian fiction, fiction writing, and screenplay writing.

John Crowley Tribute Site
Bio/Bibliography: ISFDB, 1, 2, 3, 4
Filmography: 1
Commentary/reviews of Crowley's works: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Interviews: 1, 2
E-TEXTS: "The Happy Place"
Subterranean Press
Excerpt from The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

A number of reviewers have stated that John Crowley is the sort of writer whose works you either immediately take to or are immediately put off by — I must admit upon reading my first Crowley work, The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines to be firmly in the former camp. A number of published and even highly marketable writers can tell a story, and then some, like Talbot Mundy, Algernon Blackwood, Ray Bradbury and John Crowley, are storytellers (or raconteurs) — quite a different kettle of fish. Sometimes storytelling is about leaving some mystery, sometimes it is about not driving the plot forward with surprise or cliffhanger events, sometimes it is about developing a rapport with the reader akin to sitting across a table from the author, sipping a beer, and reminiscing about the "good ol' days," sometimes it is about — especially in a novella — knowing what details are superfluous, sometimes it about knowing when to leave the story off, knowing when the point has been made. In so doing, Crowley's narrator retrospectively immerses us in late 50s middle-America, inside a fledgling, small-town Shakespeare company. In this community of young stagehands, actors and others, a low key romance — the old fashion man-woman kind — develops. While it is in part a discovery of the physical aspects of love, it is far more about the development of a steadfast and supportive, if interrupted, relationship.

Woven in there is a good bit of detail about speculations and arguments regarding Shakespeare's identity which the less literarily inclined might find tedious, but are quite interesting and much easier to take when presented in 92 pages of John Crowley than the near 1000 pages of Ignatius Donnelly [The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in Shakespeare's Plays (1888)].

The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines The title of the novella is drawn from a collection of the same title published in 1850-1851 by Mary Cowden Clarke, who along with her husband was a noted Shakespeare scholar. In her The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines, Mrs. Clarke imagined the childhood of Shakespeare's heroines in a series of tales (e.g. "The Girlhood of Ophelia") which were groundbreaking in their portray of free-spirited women, and of a number of women's issues which were not spoken of at the time (see here). Similarly to Clarke's emancipated Victorian women, Crowley presents the main female character as a free-spirited young woman, born perhaps ten years too early — having her Summer of Love in 1959 instead of 1969 — who doesn't fit in with the role she is supposed to fill in society. I'm not entirely sure what her rather unfortunate ultimate fate is meant to represent, perhaps a comment about the ravages of age from an author now in his sixties, perhaps some parallel with the not always happy fates of Shakespeare's adult heroines, but it is not incongruent with the rest of the tale. Whether the story has a autobiographical feel because it is so in part, or whether it is simply well enough written to appear to be so I'm not sure, but certain the author conveys a great deal of emotion, in this brief but delightful tale.

Copyright © 2005 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide