The Vavasour Macbeth

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

I really liked the premise for this book. Manuscript mystery plus a  historical mystery seemed like a fascinating book concept and to be quite honest I don't think I've ever read something like that. It started out well with a fascinating discovery in a tomb--manuscripts in fantastic condition--so the vicar calls a local scholar. 

Stephen (the local scholar) used to date Margaret (the vicar's daughter) and the romance is between the two of them. Frankly, I disliked both on some level. I think because it was difficult for me to relate to them at all, they didn't seem realistic in their actions or conversations. This was a bit of a disappointment as Stephen and Margaret stay with us for the whole book. 

There is a satisfying wrap-up as well as a connection to Shakespeare (as the title suggests). The book was written in the third person (I think?) which is not a normal voice to me, so that was an intriguing aspect. I really liked the actual knowledge about Anne Vavasour and her life. This was done throughout the book but also at the end of the book. I also enjoyed the knowledge about manuscripts, the cities visited and the knowledge about Shakespeare. I don't actually know a ton about British history so much of this was new to me. That being said, it might be a bit too much and in need of a vicious editor that has the attitude of "while interesting, not important for the story."
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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader.  Love the cover.
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I thought the idea behind the novel was really interesting and offered great potential, both for exploring a lesser known but fascinating historical figure and for introducing references to Macbeth. I would have liked to have learned much more about Anne Vavasour, her life and times and the possible theatrical connections. Likewise, there were so many opportunities to draw on the Scottish play for inspiration. Unfortunately, the author failed to exploit the promising material and got bogged down in the rather dull romance between Margaret and Stephen, while the present-day murder mystery was somewhat predictable and the motivation not particularly convincing. The Bosnian sub-theme was also confusing and did not seem to relate much to the rest of the storyline. 
Although the book is well-written and the subject matter intriguing, all in all it failed to hold my interest and I found none of the characters really believable.
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At the time I requested this title I was reading a lot of historical fiction and mysteries, so this book had caught my eye. I currently find myself quite burnt out on the genre and feel the need for an extended break. I do not want to force myself to read it right now where my apathetic mood towards the genre may end up dictating how I review the book and that will not be fair to the publisher or the author. I may pick this up to buy later on if I ever get in the mood but for now I'll have to put this aside.
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IF I WERE TO DESCRIBE THIS BOOK WITH ONE WORD, THAT WORD WOULD BE 'AMATEURISH'

I was expecting an interesting historical mystery, but all I got was a letdown and a snoozefest. Yawn.

THE THINGS I DID NOT LIKE

Inconsistent narration: This book is narrated in the 3rd person with Stephen as the main character. However, sometimes we get some strange interjections of Stephen's thoughts narrated in the first person, but without quotations or italics. Sorry, but that's just wrong...

Unnecessary explanations: This is actually a trap that many authors, especially historians, fall into when writing historical fiction. They are so full of information and knowledge that they cannot limit themselves, they simply have to include everything. The thing is, though, that it doesn't serve any point in telling the story. So really, it is just annoying.

Characters: Stephen, the main character, and his romantic partner and 'sidekick' Margaret are flat, lifeless and wholly devoid of any kind of personality. Try as I may, I cannot think of a single word to use to describe them. Not one!

Pace: This is the main reason why I call this book a snoozefest. It was too slow! The pace was slower than a snail. It was more like a dead snail, really. 

Plot: Or, to put it plainly, lack of plot. Because there was none.
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The Vavasour Macbeth is a fictionalized historical mystery by Bart Casey. Released 7th May 2019 by Post Hill, it's 368 pages and available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

I've always enjoyed historical mysteries especially written around a framework of factual history. This one is told in third person, alternating the modern timeline (1992), with Elizabethan & Jacobian historical vignettes built into the story. There is a major subplot involving the situation in Bosnia at the time which struck me oddly, but the research for all of the facets of the book (modern and medieval) were impressively well done.

There were a few stereotypes with which I was somewhat uncomfortable and the female main character, Margaret, though not unintelligent, struck me as recklessly hasty and naive.

The book is undeniably beautifully written. The author has a deft touch with dialogue and pacing. The historical parts are very well researched and believably rendered and I didn't find any anachronisms or mistakes. (I'm not a historian, just a keen amateur). If the denouement was a trifle too perfect, it was at least a happy and satisfying one. It should also be mentioned that either the author is gifted with his capacity for nuts-and-bolts writing, or the editing was superlative. I was given an early eARC for review purposes and found not one single typo or mistake. I think that might be unique in my reviewing experience thus far.

The author includes a nice list of historical notes and references which leave me itching to read further. I always love author afterwords for the glimpse they give into the author's creative process. That was a big plus for me with this book.

I enjoyed this one very much and will definitely seek out the author's further work.

Four stars.
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What drew me to this book was my interesting in Vavasour, from having read of her in Shakespeare by Another Name by Mark Anderson.  While this novel is good, especially for those who love England, its best aspects, for me at any rate, were set in the Renaissance past.
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A great new approach to the usual historical fiction fare. Margaret’s father, the vicar, finds some less than usual papers in the family vault in the church. It turns into a debacle that ultimately leads to his death. However in the interim, we find out interesting things surrounding the life of Anne Vavasour, a very interesting character from Elizabethan England. This book tackles things like the authorship of some of Shakespeares work and other interesting lore. I would highly recommend it!! 

This ebook was provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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The Vavasour Macbeth, written by Bart Casey grabs your attention with the first sentence and holds you captive until the final word.  Heavy in detail, I sometimes felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation between the main characters.  Although it was somewhat predictable from the start, there are many twists and turns that hold your attention.  
The story bounces between 1990's London, England and the Royal Courts in the 1500's. 
A Vicar at a small London church finds the floor of his parish damaged by water after some youngsters accidently leave on a spigot after a church activity.  The Vicar is understandably upset when he realizes that water has seeped through the floor of the church, damaging many of the vaults containing the remains of former parishioners underneath the floor.  During investigation of the damage, the Vicar is stunned to find two small lead boxes which contain ancient manuscripts in still perfect condition dated from the 1500s so he calls his daughter Margaret's former fiancé, Stephen, who is an expert in ancient manuscripts. 
 Stephen, Headmaster of a private school in London, quickly realizes that there may be some value to the writings that have been uncovered and decides to investigate them.  In the meantime, information is leaked to the tabloids and an article named "Treasures in the Tomb" is released causing an instant sensation in the tiny town where the church is planted. The Vicar experiences an "accident" shortly after the release of the article, and Stephen calls the Vicar's daughter, Margaret (who is currently a BBC reporter working in Sarajevo during the 1990's unrest) to return home to be with her comatose father.. Margaret returns to London, and during their quest to discover the value of the uncovered documents, their own lives are put in danger by others trying to steal the documents to sell them to the highest bidder. 
The book is rich in detail, and seems to be trying very hard to appeal to everyone mature enough to read it.  Although I am not a fan of mysteries, this tome was not "in your face" violent with bloody, graphic detail, therefore it did not offend me.  However, some parts were a bit difficult to wade my way through since I found those parts unnecessary to the telling of the story, but preserve I did and found the decision to continue worthwhile.
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A cache of Elizabethan documents is found in a tomb, why they are there and what they mean is a mystery. The quest to determine their origins and context takes on new importance when the vicar who found them is murdered. A 16th-century mystery combines with a 20th-century mystery in a wonderful story the merges fact and fiction.

I was captivated by the description before even starting to read and once I started I became fascinated by the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the retelling of 16th-century events, as they related to Anne Vavasour, prior to the occurrence of the 20th-century events at the beginning of each part of the story. It adds context to what is learned about Anne during the investigation. Even tidbits as trivial as how a book cover was made provides clues about how rare it is to find personal documents from that period in time, and why Anne may have kept them.

The characters were engaging. Steven is intelligent, warm and kind. Maggie’s character evolved over the course of the story from mildly abrasive to an appealing, warm character with depth. The villains were utterly repellent…but that’s a good thing…I found their outright smarminess perfect for the story.

My issues with the book are few. There was a bit of retelling of facts and/or events. Also, the backgrounds of characters and their relationships was sometimes provided in long passages, which felt somewhat artificial. This threw the rhythm off and sometimes bogged down the story. 

Overall this was a very educational, entertaining, and enjoyable read.

My thanks to NetGalley and Post Hill Press for the advanced reading copy for my review.
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Unique blend of history, romance and mystery.  When a Vicar (Margaret's father) rescues some documents from a vault he calls in Stephen (Margaret's ex-fiance) to help decipher the Elizabethan era documents.  The documents tell the story of Anna Vavasour a 16 year old in Queen Elizabeth's court.  She is seduced by a much older Earl and later gives birth at court and the next day she is in the Tower of London.  The documents reveal a transcript of Macbeth which brings out thieves and murder.  The Vicar is found murdered in his home.  Margaret, Stephen and the police have to find the culprit.  I enjoyed the blending of past and present.  Of course it also doesn't hurt that Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.  Enjoyable read with history, romance and mystery.
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Bart Casey spins an entertaining tale of family secrets,, contemporary greed, and restored love from what might in other hands have been a predictable starting point, the discovery of a cache of  Elizabethan manuscripts in a village church vault damaged by fire.  
When Vicar Hamilton realizes they relate to one of his now-deceased wife's ancestors, the remarkable Anne Vavasour, a sixteen-year-old Maid of Honor to Queen Elizabeth the First', he calls in Stephen, a local school master with some knowledge of old manuscripts to help access the damage. 
 
So begins a dual time line mystery which draws in threads of Shakespearean lore, art fraud, would-be-murder and modern love.

The Anne Vavasour story, while only a small part of the narrative in terms of  overall word count, is a remarkable true account that sparkles at its heart.. Anne, a young noblewoman groomed to be a kindred spirit of the Queen from the age of six, carefully schooled in "Latin, Greek, French, Italian  and even English," falls spectacularly from grace, when she is seduced by one of the most powerful men in the realm, the bored and selfish Earl of Oxford.  

An Elizabethan Monica Lewinsky., if you will.  Within 24 hours of giving birth to an illegitimate son, Anne and child are in the Tower., but remarkably, that is not the end of her story.  Taken up as the mistress of wealthy widower Sir Henry Lee, the Queen's champion of the joust (and rumored to be her half brother) she enjoys a full and fascinating life which sees her living into her nineties and being accepted back into favor, not just with Queen Elizabeth, but also her successor, James I and his wife Queen Anne. 

The short excerpts from Anne's life which head the five sections of the story - like the five acts of a Shakespearean play - hold everything together.  Cleverly, an edition of William Shakespeare's Macbeth also makes its way into the story, as credibly, the Bard of Avon would have been well known to Sir Henry and Anne.

The author's clear passion for and deep knowledge of his material - his relating of arcane Shakespearean anecdotes for example,  and his appreciation of the finer points of ancient texts, set The Vavasour Macbeth apart, conferring  vitality and authenticity. Entertaining, intriguing, it's a story that leaves a hint of nostalgia long after you've finished reading it.  Memento mori, Or as Anne herself recorded in one of her old school notebooks, "Perhaps one day it will help to remember even these things" - Virgil, Aeneid, 1:203,
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A good mix of romance and mystery partly set in Tudor England. I found it well balanced and entertaining. I look forward to more from this author
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I hate not finishing a book.  As a matter of fact, I have only not finished one book, until now.  From the book description it sounded great and I was looking forward to a great read.  However, the story is in the same format as a play and I had a hard time reading it.
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This novel tells the story that of events that surrounds the play of Macbeth. The novel’s main protagonist is Anne, who was one a maid of Queen Elizabeth’s court. I found Anne to be a strong character. While she comes off as naive and makes many mistakes, she grows wiser. Overall, this novel was very well-written. It has a dash of mystery. There were times that I thought the novel was very repetitive and drawn out. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was much shorter. However, I recommend this for those that are interested in the Elizabethan era and Shakespeare. Full review to come!
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This should be a gripping novel: secret documents uncovered in an ancestral vault, Elizabethan scandal, Shakespearean mysteries, paleography and antiquities thievery. However, Anne Vavasour’s story takes time to become truly engaging and is overshadowed in the early acts by a predictable romance between Anne’s ancestor, Margaret, and Stephen, an upper-class academic wish-fulfilment. Moreover, the novel is overwhelmed by outdated social politics. The male gaze is established early on and never quite manages to relent, jarring against what seem to be attempts at a ultimately stagnated feminist approach to both Anne and Stephen’s stories which is better suited to the 90s setting. Casey’s portrayals of working-class characters are tropeish, and the portrayal of the villains lamentably comes straight out of the Section 28 era.

It’s evident that Casey knows his history and Shakespeare however, and whilst the exposition often lacks subtlety, the uncovering of Anne’s involvement in Macbeth is intriguing. Had Casey written a speculative essay instead, his underlying premise might have been promising; as it is, these moments provide some slight respite in an otherwise disappointingly mundane and sociologically tone deaf novel.
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I received this book via Netgalley and the publisher, in return for an honest review. This is a well-researched book that is a murder mystery in the modern day, combined with historical relationships and intrigue from Tudor England.  Add a modern day romance and this is a well-told and interesting tale.  I recommend it, particularly if you are a Tudor history fan.  The tale begins with a baby taken from its mother and sent to a different family during the reign of Henry VIII.  Switching to modern day, a flood in a historic church reveals two chests of documents from that period.  Given by the rector to his daughter’s former fiancée, Stephen, the efforts to evaluate and catalogue the papers begins.  Then, the rector dies under unusual circumstances, bringing Stephen back in touch with Margaret, the rector’s daughter.  Alternating narratives share the story of Anne Vavasour and Sr. Henry Lee, real people in the reign of Elizabeth I.  A well-written story that brings the people to life and ties in interesting historical facts.
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The Vavasour Macbeth is a mixed genre book with mystery, thriller, historical, and romance undertones. The father of Margaret Hamilton finds some Elizabethan manuscripts in a flooded vault. Not familiar with the treasure he possesses, he asks Margaret's former fiance' Stephen to help him find out what they mean. This unusual find brings the couple together again to work in close proximity. The true story of Anne Vavasour begins to unfold as the manuscripts are read. From the life of a 16 year old maid of honour in Queen Elizabeth's court, to having a baby out of wedlock and being placed in the Tower, Anne was shown to be the mistress of  Sir Henry Lee, rumored to be Queen Elizabeth's half brother, for 20 years. As Margaret and Stephen further uncover the link between the papers and Shakespeare's Macbeth, their lives are in peril as thieves are determined to steal the papers at all cost.
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This was an incredibly enjoyable read. I could not put this book down. I would recommend this to anyone!
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At first I really didn't want to like this because the double spaced format was driving me nuts on my eReader, made me think a lot about the essays I've written over the years... Once I got over this though, I really really enjoyed this. 

I thought for the most part everything was well done. Margaret's voice could have used more work, she wasn't an airhead or anything of the sort, which some male authors often present... I just felt like she could have taken more time to deal with some of the hard situations she is dealt with, and that she made some life changing moves without taking time to think things through. 

Also everything just wrapped up too well for the protagonists. Instant family just add water!!

I feel like setting the story in 1992 served no purpose other than allowing the author to use the Bosnian/Yugoslavian situation as a plot device. 

Also - Macbeth doesn't make an appearance till I think it was 70% of the way through, so I feel the title could have been reworked. 

The research was great, loved reading about Oxford, London and Buckinghamshire. Super neat to read the story of a lady in Queen Elizabeth's court whose never gotten the novel treatment (to my knowledge). I love me a good dual narrative, fan's of Lauren Willig and other author's who've mastered that art will probably enjoy this too.
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