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Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

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November 2017 Book of the Month

The title of course refers to Puck’s line in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Lo what fools these mortals be!”. It is a new period for Cornwell who is most famous for his Regency “Sharpe” series and more recently for the Viking Last Kingdom series. This has less battles and bloodshed, more intrigue and infighting, as William Shakespeare’s younger brother struggles to survive as an actor amid the squalor and splendour of Elizabethan London. He wants to grow up and “take men’s parts” in the plays but his youth and good looks keep seeing him cast as a girl, a dilemma peculiar to the period. I love Cornwell’s writing. His detail and characterisation well deserve the praise they so often receive. As I said this book is less bloody than many of his others. It is also set in a period more familiar to lovers of historical novels. It is wonderfully well-written and a must for his fans. Sarah Broadhurst

If you like Bernard Cornwell you might also like to read books by Simon Scarrow, Valerio Massimo Manfredi and George Macdonald Fraser.

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Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry - and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory - propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal. Showcasing his renowned storyteller's skill, Bernard Cornwell has created an Elizabethan world incredibly rich in its portrayal: you walk the London streets, stand in the palaces and are on stage in the playhouses, as he weaves a remarkable story in which performances, rivalries and ambition combine to form a tangled web of intrigue.


Praise for Bernard Cornwell:

Like Game of Thrones, but real OBSERVER

Blood, divided loyalties and thundering battles THE TIMES

Strong narrative, vigourous action and striking characterisation, Cornwell remains king of the territory he has staked out as his own SUNDAY TIMES

A violent, absorbing historical saga, deeply researched and thoroughly imagined WASHINGTON POST

The best battle scenes of any writer I've ever read, past or present. Cornwell really makes history come alive George R .R. Martin

Cornwell draws a fascinating picture of England as it might have been before anything like England existed THE TIMES

He's called a master storyteller. Really he's cleverer than that TELEGRAPH

A reminder of just how good a writer he is SUNDAY TIMES

Nobody in the world does this better than Cornwell Lee Child

About the Author

Bernard Cornwell

Born in Essex in 1944 Bernard Cornwell was adopted at the age of six weeks by two members of a strict fundamentalist sect called the Peculiar People. He grew up in a household that forbade alcohol, cigarettes, dances, television, conventional medicine and toy guns. Not surprisingly, he developed a fascination for military adventure. As a teenager he devoured CS Forester’s Hornblower novels and tried to enlist three times. Poor eyesight put paid to his dream, instead he went to university to read theology. On graduating, he became a teacher, then joined BBC’s Nationwide, working his way up the ladder to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland, then editor of Thames News. In 1979, his life changed when he fell in love with an American.

"Judy couldn’t live here, so I gave up my job and moved to the US. I couldn’t get a green card, and for 18 months the only thing I could do was write novels." The result was his first book about 19th century hero, Richard Sharpe, Sharpe’s Eagle.

In addition to the hugely successful Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell is the author of the Starbuck Chronicles, the Warlord trilogy, the Grail Quest series, the Alfred series and standalone battle books Azincourt and The Fort.

Bernard Cornwell owns houses in Cape Cod and Florida and two boats. Every year he takes two months off from his writing and spends most of his time on his 24 foot Cornish crabber, Royalist.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th October 2017


Bernard Cornwell

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HarperCollins Publishers Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


384 pages


Literary Fiction
Thriller / Suspense
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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