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The Marlowe Papers

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An outstanding verse novel, winner of the 2013 Desmond Elliott prize, which recreates the dramatic story of Christopher Marlowe's life and shows how he could have written the works attributed to Shakespeare - a provocative, persuasive and enthralling tour de force.

About the Author

Ros Barber is the author of three collections of poetry, the latest of which (Material, Anvil 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her short fiction, which won prizes in the Asham and Independent on Sunday short story competitions, has been published by Bloomsbury and Serpents Tail. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry London, London Magazine, The Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and many other publications; it also features in anthologies published by Faber, Virago, Anvil and Seren. In 2011 Ros was awarded the Hoffman Prize for THE MARLOWE PAPERS and in 2013 it won the Desmond Elliott Prize. She lives in Brighton and has four children.


A magnificently original novel...this is a marvellous reconstruction of a life, told beautifully...A truly superb achievement. * Lesley Mc Dowell, Glasgow Herald * Themes of identity and self-esteem, of truth and loyalty, give substance to Barber's enthralling plot in a work that combines historical erudition with a sharply satisfying read. Marlowe's passion infects the page; Barber's skill draws the fever. * James Urquhart, Independent * What a pleasure it was to discover that the book is not only packed with the kind of upper-echelon phrase-making that one expects from a poet of Barber's standing ('snow is falling like small promises', 'I'd make world in words, I'd show it things/you'd only see in mirrored glass, and then/scratch off the silver, let the truth go through') but it is also as excitingly plotted as any thriller... The Marlowe Papers thunders along like an episode of some Elizabethan 24 * Jonathan Barnes, Literary Review * now that I've reached the end I want to go back and read it all again...Written in Marlowe's voice the reader doesn't need to know his work or that of Shakespeare to enjoy the book and relish the accomplishment of the author...The proof copy I read is already battered with rereading. I will be buying myself a hardback copy when it comes out. Don't buy it on an e-reader, buy a proper copy and hold it lovingly as you read. * * The best book I've read for a long time. Truly innovative, truly original, and a powerful poetic journey to another truth. Ros Barber has told a great story, in a fascinating way, so fascinating that she had someone like me gripped to the very end. This really is a joy to read and a true work of art. * Benjamin Zephaniah * Barber ingeniously weaves the action of the plays and sonnets into her story...The verse is subtle and varied enough never to disturb the ear, and in fact you forget that you're reading poetry at all. This is no bawdy cod-Shakespearean romp. * Suzi Feay, Financial Times * Lush, inspired and provocative, this spellbinding dossier conjures up a bewitching Marlowe. * Kirkus * This terrifically accomplished and enjoyable novel/play/poem, call it what you like, restores one's faith in English fiction. * Fay Weldon * this highly ambitious debut makes for an engrossing read...brought to life by smatterings of exquisitely poetic descriptions and turns of phrase worthy of the Bard himself, whoever he was. * Time Out * This is effortlessly better stuff than many far more trumpeted poets can produce, even on a good day...The Marlowe Papers is the best read, so far, this year. * Martin Newell, Sunday Express * The Marlowe Papers grips. * John Sutherland, The Times * This rich and charmingly playful work avoids the potential for whimsy inherent in such an undertaking. The thrill at reimagining the events and era comes through wave after wave in Barber's blank verse. * Adam O'Riordan, Sunday Telegraph * A big, clever, vividly wrought work of conspiracy fiction, filled with impeccable but lightly worn research. Elizabethan England, in all its stifling atmosphere of repression - writers were regularly being imprisoned and having their hands cut off - is brought to life by Barber's faultless poet's ear...[she]cannily uses the poetry to do just what any prose narrative aspires to: it's sharp, concise, stunningly visual. -- Robert Collins * Sunday Times *

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