Recent book reviews: Hildegard and Shakespeare

I’ve been doing some reviews for NetGalley, and thought I’d start posting a selection of them here. These are intentionally very short and designed to send pre-publication feedback to the publishers.

Hildegard of Bingen by Honey Meconi. 5/5.
Honey Meconi’s book is a nice introduction to the life and work of 12th century nun Hildegard of Bingen. In the book’s first half, Meconi provides an accessible and well-written biography of Hildegard, drawing on the latest scholarship. In the second, she offers a more in-depth account of HIldegard’s musical works. This second section assumes some musical literacy, but not specialist specialist knowledge. Hildegard of Bingen is suitable and will appeal to general audiences and serve as a solid foundation on Hildegard for undergraduate students.

Shakespeare’s Wife by Katherine West Schell. 3/5.
Schell examines the various imagined afterlives of Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s wife, drawing on a wide variety of sources. Written for a general audience, the book offers readers some insight into the ways Hathaway has been used and abused by Shakespeare fans and scholars. The book could do with less repetition (I suspect the chapters began as standalone essays, which is common for academics) and sign-posting (there’s an awful lot of “in the next section….,” “in the following chapter….” etc.), both of which should have been fixed in copyediting.

Shakespeare and the Resistance by Claire Asquith 1/5.
How do books like this get published? Asquith’s newest foray into Shakespeare and history is a bumbling, self-contradictory mess in which she cherry-picks from some, often dated, aspects of the scholarly literature on the topic while ignoring the bulk of it. Her claims about how scholars think about Shakespeare are utterly false and twisted to promote her own inane agendas. In addition, she seems to think that rape is erotic, that the identity of Shakespeare dedicatee “Mr W. H.” is fully and firmly decided, and that printed poems and plays were distributed, printed, and sold in identical ways. She cites no relevant studies on readership, audience, or reception, preferring to make assumptions and guesses as she goes along. Can I give it negative stars as a review?

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