Anthony Burgess's "Nothing Like The Sun" is a linguistic marvel. It is a philosophically oppressive look at William Shakespeare's foray into literature and the world. Starting in the small 'borough' of Stratford, WS (as he is called) is an apprentice leather craftsman. He spends his days and nights dreaming of plays, gentility, and idealistic love.
Most of the novel shows WS trying to figure out what kind of love he is after. His notions of love come from Plato's "Symposium" - will it be common, physical lust, or contemplation of absolute beauty leading to his best poetic and dramatic works? The relationships that the novel explores these questions with are with the youthful noble Henry Wriothesly and the exotic, colonial Fatima.
Burgess delights in wordplay throughout the novel, using for the most part, the language of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets in the narration and dialogue. Unlike "Shakespeare in Love" Burgess's novel does not build around any specific text, instead making his works almost marginal to the drama of Shakespeare's fictional biography. Burgess presents Shakespeare's works as the results and expressions of a desperate life.
Burgess augments Shakespeare's story with an almost post-colonial historical setting. With Fatima allegedly from the Indies, and a backdrop of English oppression of the Irish, "Nothing Like The Sun" complicates Shakespeare's historical moment. Class struggles, plagues, and political sterility also mark the temporal setting as the novel moves from the country (Stratford) to the coast (Bristol) to the capital (London).
Reading "Nothing Like The Sun" was a welcome experience for me, having only ever read Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange" before. The writing style takes a little getting used to, but that is the price you pay for art. I highly recommend it.