John Crowley,
The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines
(Subterranean Press, 2005)

John Crowley's novella The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines gives us an unnamed narrator's remembrance of the perfect summer he spent as a theatrical apprentice at the Indiana Shakespeare Festival. Now a college professor, his memory is bound up with the girl he met there, Harriet Ingram. A self-proclaimed free spirit, Harriet gravitated to Our Narrator from the first. They spent time together, smoked together, argued over the various theories of who Shakespeare really was and, in the end, shared a life-changing event that eventually bound them even more closely.

The narrator is looking back from May 1981 to a sweet 1959. (Although the date is never explicitly stated, he and Harriet discuss the shooting of Pope John Paul II.) He has asked Harriet to marry him and is awaiting her answer.

The novella's title comes from a book written by Mary Cowden Clarke, published in 1851 (or 1852). Clarke apparently presents biographies of Shakespeare's heroines as if they had been real people. Harriet is much taken with the book.

This is a fascinating, moving story about how one magical summer changed two lives and how a free spirit struggles to remain a free spirit in the aftermath of a life-altering event.

by Laurie Thayer
17 March 2007

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