Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review-Wicked Company, by CiJi Ware


Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks Landmark
624 pages
October 2010

Synopsis from Sourcebooks, Back Cover

"If Shakespeare had a sister…
In 18th century London the glamorous Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres were all the rage, beckoning every young actor, actress, playwright, and performer with the lure of the stage lights. But competition and back-biting between theatre owners, patrons, actors, and writers left aspiring playwrights with their work stolen, profits withheld, and reputations on the line. For a female, things were harder still, as the chances of a “petticoat playwright” getting past the government censor was slim.
In this exciting and cutthroat world, a young woman with a skill for writing and an ambition to see her work performed could rise to glory, or could lose all in the blink of an eye…
In Ciji Ware’s signature style, real-life characters of the day create a backdrop for a portrait of a glittering era, a love story, and a compelling glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an emphatically man’s world."

Review by Wisteria

I was introduced to Ciji Ware’s masterful storytelling in Island of the Swans and couldn’t wait to read her other works. Cottage of the Sea was an equally engrossing story that reaffirmed my dream of one day living by the ocean. Wicked Company has made me a Ciji Ware devotee, this author not only rights beautiful stories, her text is a lyrical experience throughout. As the melodic plot unfolds she adds unique and charming characters who offer the perfect counterpoint.

The setting is 18th century London centering on the Covent Garden District. Ware points out in her Author’s Notes, that women dramatists were more common than most have come to believe between 1660 and 1800. In her opinion they have been omitted in studies of British literature and her purpose in writing is to shine light on these remarkable women of the British and American theater.

Sophie Hamilton McGann works for her father, Daniel McGann, a printer. She is a bold, intelligent, opinionated and often rash female heroine of fiction. However, many of the plays performed in the novel were based on actual historical events. Surrounding Sophie is at the center of Wicked Company, joined by a cast of historical and fictitious players. Regarded as key figures of the theater world at the time were, David Garrick, Richard Sheridan, George Coleman and several others. What surprised me in this book was the practice during this time of the employment of a government censor. Edward Capelli, lived at this time and he was the Deputy Examiner of Plays. He certainly gave Sophie a difficult time, slashing her dialogue and often refusing his approval entirely. From the beginning Ware establishes Sopie’s independent spirit and often impulsive temper. She often dons man's attire to gain admittance and acceptance. When she meets Hunter, a street juggler she is smitten, but it will be years before he realizes he too has a mad obsession for Sophie. Until then, they are good friends and the paths they follow are not always in sync. Their passion is precious but kismet interferes with a smooth journey for the two. Ware taunts the reader with an anxious love story that seems hopelessly doomed.

I admire Sophie for her tenacious will and resolve as she insinuates herself into the theater world dominated by men. Sometimes I want to shake her silly for her impulsivity, but overall she is an 18th century spitfire who just wants her value as a writer acknowledged and live her life with the man she loves without personal sacrifice.

To understand Sophie, perhaps this piece of dialogue will form an image in your mind. Throughout the centuries this or similar refrains, whether a whisper or a shout resonate around the world by women. Sophie could have been my twin.

“I’ve had days lately when I’m tired and discouraged, but why must a woman always put a man’s wishes and desires first? Why must she invariably honor his dreams and ambitions above all else? Do you really think that’s the only path to happiness for men and women?” (232)

Wicked Company confirms that Ciji Ware is an exquisite writer of historical fiction and without a doubt one of my favorite authors.

Disclosure: Wicked Company was sent to me by the publisher.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].

1 comment:

Audra said...

Lovely review -- you make me want to find a CiJi Ware novel immediately! Any recommendations for which one to start with?