1878: The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker.
Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager's devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen.
This exceptional novel explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.
Joseph O'Connor was born in Dublin. His books include eight previous novels: Cowboys and Indians (Whitbread Prize shortlist), Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen, Star of the Sea (American Library Association Award, Irish Post Award for Fiction, France's Prix Millepages, Italy's Premio Acerbi, Prix Madeleine Zepter for European novel of the year), Redemption Falls, Ghost Light (Dublin One City One Book Novel 2011) and The Thrill of it All. His fiction has been translated into forty languages. He received the 2012 Irish PEN Award for outstanding achievement in literature and in 2014 he was appointed Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.
"Dazzling...the panache and subtlety of his prose perfectly match that gusto and creative finesse of the High Victorian world his novel wonderfully evokes" * Sunday Times * "An ingenious novel... O'Connor's work is hugely impressive and utterly haunting" * Sunday Mirror * "Joseph O'Connor is a very great artist and storyteller. The quotient of enjoyment in his extraordinary new novel is stupendous" -- Sebastian Barry "A hugely entertaining book about the grand scope of friendship and love, it is also, movingly - at times, astonishingly - a story of transience, loss and true loyalty" * Guardian * "A work of Gothic splendour...O'Connor's writing is always intensely atmospheric. As a romp through Ripper-ravaged London, Shadowplay is mightily entertaining. But as a meditation on hidden sexuality, it is powerful and poignant" * Literary Review * "A fabulous novel that tells the otherwise largely unknown story of the man behind Gothic horror's most enduring character... The narrative stretches decades, and throbs with theatrical vigour. This is writing at its most immersive, full of Dickensian pulchritude and pathos. It should, and might well, win prizes" * i * "A rollicking tale... an affecting depiction of artistic and social emancipation... O'Connor's well-researched theatrical caper offers total immersion in a romantic, lost London... be nourished by a colourful tale of secret love and public performance" * The Times * "There are few living writers who can take us back in time so assuredly, with such sensual density, through such gorgeous sentences. Joseph O'Connor is a wonder, and Shadowplay is a triumph." -- Peter Carey, twice winner of the Booker Prize "Gorgeously dark... Shadowplay is an accomplished, compelling read" * Herald * "A hugely entertaining and atmospheric novel, one can almost smell the greasepaint" -- Deborah Moggach "A mesmerising read, meticulously researched, with beautiful prose...O'Connor has the gift of conjuring up any location....Wonderful suspense a la Wilkie Collins" * Sunday Independent * "Wonderful. The writing is beautiful." -- Derek Jacobi "One of Ireland's finest writers" -- John Boyne * Washington Post * "Three famous Victorians carry this sparkling historical novel: Sir Henry Irving, the great actor-manager; Ellen Terry, his leading lady; and Bram Stoker, the young Irishman who worked for Irving as a theatre manager before writing Dracula. From their entangled lives Joseph O'Connor weaves a story of love and loyalty, rich in wit and imagination." * Daily Mail * "One of the best writers working today" -- Alice Walker "In gorgeous sentences, Joseph O'Connor captures the essence of three very different artistic temperaments in all their nobility and glorious absurdity" -- Jake Kerridge * Sunday Express * "Joseph O'Connor is the only writer I know who can make you laugh and cry in the same sentence." -- Lawrence Norfolk "Joseph O'Connor is the only writer I know who can make you laugh and cry in the same sentence." -- Lawrence Norfolk "Magnificent" -- John Boyne "A virtuoso act of literary ventriloquism. Shadowplay is funny, smart, tender, wise and written with inch-perfect precision" -- Colum McCann "A thrilling novel, exquisitely contrived to show the characters whose loves and lives inspired Dracula. A great tribute, and a work of art. Deeply affecting." -- Essie Fox "As fascinating and memorable as anything O'Connor has done. The writing, too, as thrilling as ever. A great writer performing Olympian literary storytelling." -- Sir Bob Geldof "O'Connor is a true master of historical fiction, able to illuminate a bygone age with skill, wit and imagination" * Mail on Sunday * "A lushly enjoyable pastiche of fin-de-siecle prose, in which Victorian euphemism is an authenticating stamp that double as a source of humour" -- Anthony Cummins * Observer * "A luminous and masterly depiction of Bram Stoker's time at the Lyceum, this wonderful book explores the complex nature of love and creativity. Utterly captivating." -- Sophia Tobin "Beautifully written. O'Connor creates a vivid and vigorous world of his own" * Spectator * "Beautifully written and gorgeously atmospheric" * Best * "A beautifully written masterpiece" * SHEmazing! * "A vividly written and atmospheric meditation on the creative process" * Daily Mail * "O'Connor is masterly at evoking the late Victorian era; its train journeys, street scenes, formality and banter... O'Connor is masterly at evoking the late Victorian era; its train journeys, street scenes, formality and banter" * Financial Times * "Rich and vivid" * Daily Telegraph * "Joseph O'Connor has written an entertaining novel that combines narrative with transcripts of recordings, diary entries and other notes. It steeps viewers in the theatre of Irving and Terry in the late 1870s and beyond, providing much informative colour at the same time as delving deeply and frankly into a series of relationships that are generally convincing." * British Theatre Guide * "O'Connor tells his story in rich and stylish prose" * Times Literary Supplement * "A rousing story about a remarkable woman" * Mail on Sunday, *Summer reads of 2019* * "Joseph O'Connor's vivid descriptive writing evokes Stoker's memories of the post-famine Ireland of his youth and of Irving's company's fraught tours of America... [his] fine writing, his wit and sympathy create a richly enjoyable backdrop for some familiar characters" * Tablet, *Novel of the Week* * "A thrilling novel, exquisitely contrived to show the characters whose loves and lives inspired Dracula. A great tribute, and a work of art. Deeply affecting." -- Essie Fox
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