Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato

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Hidden in the language of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedy Much Ado About Nothing, are several clues to an intriguing tale. It seems that the witty lovers Beatrice and Benedick had a previous youthful love affair which ended bitterly. But how did they meet, why did they part, and what brought them together again?

Marina Fiorato transports the reader to Messina, Sicily; the year is 1588 and Beatrice of Mantua comes to the court of her uncle Leonato, to be companion to his daughter, Hero. That fateful summer, Spanish lordling Don Pedro visits for a month-long sojourn on the island with his regiment. In his company is the young soldier Benedick of Padua. Benedick and Beatrice begin to wage their merry war of wit, which masks the reality that they dance a more serious measure, and the two are soon deeply in love. But the pair are cruelly parted by natural disaster and man-made misunderstanding. Oceans apart, divided by war and slander, Beatrice and Benedick begin their ten-year odyssey back to Messina and each other.

Incorporating Shakespearean language with modern day nuances, Fiorato’s novel is an updated version of the classic play. A scenic adventure from sunlit Sicily to the Armada fleet and the Renaissance cities of the north, she offers us a tour of the unspoilt splendour of Italy from the past. Beautifully written with rich descriptions, Beatrice and Benedick’s back stories are deeply complex. The portrayal of lovestruck youth, family prejudices and a way of life steeped in tradition, draws on the timeless elements of Shakespeare, and just why his plays and characters are still relatable centuries later. Thoroughly researched with elegant prose, Marina Fiorato has made historical fiction accessible for fans and non-fans alike.

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