5 September 2007

Louise Welsh, Tamburlaine Must Die, 2004

Historical novels are often helped by having damn good covers, and this is a case in point. Inside, Louise Welsh has conjured a completely engrossing fiction out of the mysterious last days of the 16th Century playwright Christopher Marlowe, as he is forced to find out who is imitating one of his most famous characters, Tamburlaine, with the intention of sending Marlowe himself to the gallows. Welsh employs a playfulness with language that reads with great conviction (even her use of the Anglo-Saxon ‘fuck’ is legitimate); nor does she go in for endless florid detail, instead getting down to a very robust kind of sketching that captures her characters with merely a few bold strokes. It reads like a fast and fleeting look through a window into the past, the dialogue is excellent, the pacing perfect and the end result memorable.   PY

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