By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name


In 1581, Emilia Bassano is allowed no voice of her own. But as the Lord Chamberlain’s mistress she has access to the theatre, and finds a way to bring her work to the stage secretly. And yet, creating some of the world’s greatest dramatic masterpieces comes at a great cost: by paying a man for the use of his name, she will write her own out of history. His name? William Shakespeare . . .

In modern day New York, playwright Melina Green is determined to see one of her shows make the stage. After years of struggle to be recognised she has finally written again, inspired by the life of her Elizabethan ancestor — Emilia Bassano, England’s first published female poet. Although the challenges are different for her, four hundred years later, a woman’s voice is still not heard like a man’s. But what lengths will she be willing to go to in order to achieve her dreams?

Our Review

There was once a girl who became invisible so that her words might not be.

 By Any Other Name by Jodi Picoult is a proper page turner and shines a torch on the lack of women's voices through history. She is a master at creating characters you root for and I was equally invested in both Emilia's and Melina's timelines. 

I was intrigued when I read the blurb of this book because I had heard rumours previously that Shakespeare wasn't really the author of his plays but I had never looked any deeper into it. When I opened By Any Other Name part of me was expecting Shakespeare to be feature as prominantly in the book as Emilia, and it was a pleasant surprise that he was more of a peripheral character.

Emilia Bassano is given no say other the direction her life takes, no voice of her own. A woman is on the throne but even she has to tread carefully to appease the men in her sphere. As mistress to the Lord Chamberlain Emilia does however have access to the world of the theatre. She realises that no one is going to listen to a woman's words unless they do not know they belong to a woman. 

"Women were not allowed to write for the stage. At the very least, playwrighting could lead to scandal and ostracism for a woman's entire family. At the worst, it could land her in jail."

What really struck me in Emilia's timeline was that even those men who professed to love her were not be fully relied on. She was bought and sold and let down by almost all of them in one way or another. Her only allies are women, women who like her lack agency and have to create their own ways to gain some sway in their lives. 

Melina once aspired to be a playwright in New York, but its hard when no one is willing to her what you have to say unless you are a man. Then she discovers that her relative Emilia Bassano was not only the first published poet, but also potentially the real playwright behind Shakespeare's work. Melina is inspired to write a play based on her ancestor's work but soon decides that her voice may not be the best one to tell the story.

"Because the deeper she had dug while researching her ancestor, the more certain she had become that Emilia Bassano was not only the first published poet in England. She might vey well have been a playwright too.

The playwright actually. The most famous one in history."

By Any Other Name was richly detailed and impossible to put down. I didn't just read about Emilia's life, I felt like I lived it with her. This book was filled with feminist fire and truth about the hardships women can face before they even try to do something.

"Being a woman means being told to speak up for yourself in one breath, and to shut up in the next. It means fighting all the fucking time."

By Any Other Name is definitely a firm favourite of mine and will be added to my forever bookcase. 

"Escape may not be possible in my lifetime. Mayhap I am like the bird, beating against the window for naught. But you or your daughter, or your daughter's daughter - may be the one to fly through the hole." 

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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