Book Review: The Tutor

The Tutor

The Tutor

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this ebook for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.

First to read

The Tutor
Andrea Chapin

  • Hardcover (exists also as epub)
  • ISBN 9781594632549
  • 368 Pages
  • 5 Feb 2015
  • Riverhead/Penguin USA
  • Historical Fiction


Buy the book:

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Shop Indie Bookstores


This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

  New Authors 2015 2015 ebook

2015 HF Reading Challenge Button_FINAL New-Release-Challenge         


rating systemrating systemrating systemrating system

I would first like to thank Penguin and their First To Read great program, which allowed me to read The Tutor, a fascinating historical novel focusing on Shakespeare during some of his obscure years where we don’t much of what he was up to. In 1593, an outbreak of the plague in London caused the city authorities to close all the public playhouses. Shakespeare had by this time written perhaps the first five or six of his plays, but he was also working on poetry, and he may have focused on this aspect of his literary career during this in between time.

Katharine lost both her parents in a tragic fire and was raised by her aunt and uncle. The latter taught her English, Latin, Greek, and the classics. She is 30, a very learned and well read widow, when a new tutor arrives in her village. His name is William Shakespeare. This young man is trying his pen at poetry, a long poem called Venus and Adonis, with a plot based on passages from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 10). Better at Greek than him, she spends lots of hours with him, talking books, giving him advice, and editing his verses.

Reading was something besides stitching she could do: she would make it her vocation.

She does not hesitate to put him back in place. Spending so much time together, with a common passion for literature, they end up talking about themselves through talking about Venus and Adonis. And Katharine feels gradually like she’s becoming the Venus of the story herself. Will Shakespeare be her Adonis?
I will let you discover by yourself. Even though the ending was very predictable, I knew already by chapter 5 actually, I thought it touched on a very interesting theme about the connection between fiction and reality. What if fiction takes over reality? Where does it leave you? Is it a source of freedom or slavery?

The book was excellent with its use of the historical background: Queen Elizabeth has brought back Protestantism, and it’s a time of persecution for Catholics, deeply affecting Katharine and her family, and leading to major tragedies happening during the course of the novel.

I also enjoyed all the details about the literature and music (W. Byrd, virginals), clothes, and food of the time.
The dialogs are great, full of references to the works of William Shakespeare (including the family being requested to shelter three witches for a night, on their way to their trial!) and the Roman and Greek classics.
Shakespeare’s portrait is actually ambivalent: he appears as a great artist, but rather despicable as a human.
The reason I gave only 4/5 Eiffel Towers is that the general ambiance felt more like historical romance than historical fiction to me, and I am not too much into romance.

VERDICT: Rich with an excellent historical background and multiple literary references, The Tutor presents a romantic encounter between a young Shakespeare and a very learned woman, as he practices the art of poetry. Recommended for all lovers of the Bard, historical fiction and historical romance.



A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together. 

The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when the family’s priest, who had been performing Catholic services in secret, is found murdered. Faced with threats of imprisonment and death, Sir Edward is forced to flee the country, leaving Katharine adrift in a household rife with turmoil.

At this time of unrest, a new schoolmaster arrives from Stratford, a man named William Shakespeare. Coarse, quick-witted, and brazenly flirtatious, Shakespeare swiftly disrupts what fragile peace there is left at Lufanwal. Katharine is at first appalled by the boldness of this new tutor, but when she learns he is a poet, and one of talent, things between them begin to shift, and soon Katharine finds herself drawn into Shakespeare’s verse, and his life, in ways that will change her forever.

Inventive and absorbing, The Tutor is a masterful work of historical fiction, casting Shakespeare in a light we’ve never seen.



Andrea ChapinAndrea Chapin is the author of The Tutor.
She has been an editor at art, movie, theater, and literary magazines, including The Paris Review, Conjunctions, and The Lincoln Center Theater Review.
She has written for such publications as More, Redbook, Town & Country, Self, Martha Stewart Living, and others.
Chapin lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

Follow her on Twitter



Have you read any other historical fiction focusing on Shakespeare?



13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tutor

  1. Pingback: New Author Reading Challenge 2015 | Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

  4. Pingback: 2015: January wrap-up | Words And Peace

  5. Pingback: 2015 New Release Challenge | Words And Peace

    • thanks! well we don’t much really about Shakespeare, and especially on these years, so that leaves some leeway for the author. Sh did a great job for the historical context for sure, you should give it a try


What do you think? Share your thoughts, and I will answer you. I will also visit your own blog

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.