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Harvard Yard Hardcover – Apr 11 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Martin, who introduced antiquarian Peter Fallon in his debut novel Back Bay (1979), brings him back for a second quest in this sprawling bibliomystery, which traces the tightly interlaced histories of the fictional Wedge family and Harvard University. Fallon, a proud Harvard grad, assists in the university's annual fund-raising appeals. One call, to Ridley Wedge Royce, lands him not a donation but a tip. The intriguing possibility that the Wedge family once owned a rare and unknown Shakespeare manuscript-a text purportedly linking Will Shakespeare and Harvard's founder-is enough to hook Fallon. But others are on the same scent and willing to go to any lengths to root out the manuscript if it still exists. How it came into the possession of the Wedges, and what happened to it next is gradually revealed as Martin spins through 300 years of American history-from the Salem witch trials and the Boston Tea Party to the Civil War and up to the radical late 1960s-telling a tale of Harvard the institution growing from a tiny establishment under beastly first master Nathaniel Eaton to become America's premier university. Fallon's search takes a back seat to the historical material, but the novel provides good entertainment and copious Crimson lore.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Martin continues to entertain with the successful formula he perfected in best-sellers Back Bay (1979) and Cape Cod (1991). The author races back and forth through time in order to solve a bookish mystery rooted in historical events. When antiquarian bookseller Peter Fallon follows the clues he hopes will lead him to recover a lost Shakespeare play written in the bard's own hand, he himself becomes the target of both underworld thugs and unscrupulous academics. The most compelling action takes place in the past as he traces the utterly fascinating evolution of Harvard University by interweaving it with the intimate history of one of New England's first families. Bound by oath to preserve John Harvard's library, Issac Wedge takes care to squirrel away the Shakespearean quarto the dying Harvard entrusted to his care. Realizing that Puritan reactionaries would most certainly destroy the play, Wedge hands it down for safekeeping to his own son, establishing a pattern that is repeated by each succeeding generation until it appears that the manuscript has been lost. Or has it? It is up to Fallon to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The unexpected twists and turns through history will keep readers guessing and the pages turning. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
I was fascinated by the story of commonplace books and their role in the novel. These are basically scrapbooks whose owners filled with them with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas - basically they are aids for remembering useful concepts or facts.
Also interesting is Martin's take on the upper crust of Harvard through the years ("...some guys never get over the fact that they didn't get into Harvard, and some guys never get over the fact that they did"). Great lines abound throughout including: "To have order in society, there must be a chain of being", "I've always believed that any club is useless, unless it exists to keep somebody out", and the one that is key to the plot..."A man, he knew, would be known by his books."
Martin is masterful as he draws you into this page-turning "treasure hunt" that spans 300 years of Harvard, Cambridge -- in fact AMERICAN history, as the past comes to life in colorful, unforgettable scenes: For example, in the early 1600's in England, William Shakespeare - very much alive - gives his newly-written play "Loves Labors Won" to his friends upon the birth of their child (John Harvard!),then we watch the family become nearly decimated by the plague. (Note: This unpublished manuscript crosses the ocean with John Harvard, and becomes the "treasure" which grows in value with each generation that it is hidden for various reasons, the most significant of which is the Puritan ethic which for many years squelched "enlightenment" represented, in part, by theater and dramatic literature.) In a later scene - now in colonial New England -- students in a "rustic" Harvard Yard where cows graze and chickens scuttle about, have to visit the equivalent of outhouses each morning, before attending classes - a glimpse into a very different student life at the fledgling college (where, in 1678, there were only 23 students in all!Read more ›
The strength of the novel is in the beginning when Isaac Wedge becomes one of the first students at the first college in English America, founded on the edge of the wilderness, just six years after the settlement of the colony itself. The strength of is also in the enduring "mystery" of Shakespeare's play "Love Labor's Won which may or may not have lasted all these years and survived down though the generations of Wedges. The novel speaks about the universality of artistic inheritance and the lengths that families will go to preserve their heritage and speak to one another from the past.Read more ›
Now, over 350 years after the first Wedge graduate, the family has come to believe a lost Shakespearean play exists and that it belongs to them. Back in the 1700s, Lydia Wedge --- a poet, and a bad one at that --- penned a cryptic promise that Harvard would receive "a small gift of majestic proportion" when it welcomed women into its student body. She left instructions to future Wedges on its care and handling until that day arrived. But unforeseen events intervened and the family lost track of its whereabouts. Now one member of the family, Ridley Wedge Royce, enlists the aid of his friend, antique books dealer Peter Fallon, to help find this priceless treasure. When Fallon realizes he has attracted the interest of some violent and unsavory types, he starts to take the request more seriously. Then one of the Wedges turns up dead and Fallon throws himself into the quest with vigorous determination.
As Fallon searches for the lost folio, author William Martin takes us back in time to explain how it came into the Wedge possession --- earlier, actually, back when John Harvard received it from Will Shakespeare himself.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is a really fun romp through the history of Harvard, which, as it turns out, is quite inextricable from the history of this continent. Read morePublished on May 25 2004
Whenever I feel the need to read a pure work of historical fiction, I look to see what Mr. Martin has written. Read morePublished on April 27 2004 by A. T. DAMICO
Ah, Harvard! If you've spent time in Cambridge or at the college, then this book will very likely resonate with you. Read morePublished on April 7 2004
I waited a long time since Citizen Washington for Bill Martin's next book and was not disappointed. I read it in about two days,only putting it down long enough to go to work. Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2004 by John Hastings
The saga of the Wedge family is absolutely fascinating. If you want to know what a Boston Brahmin is (I don't blame you if you don't), read Harvard Yard. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2004 by Christopher Jackson
i wanted to love Harvard Yard as much as Back Bay and Cape Cod (2 of Martin's earlier books) but something about it fell terribly flat. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2004 by karen mulhern
Harvard Yard is entralling. It melds history, fact and fiction in an exquisitely dramatic way. I could not put this book down and, as is true with any excellent novel, at the end I... Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by S Crawford
A book must be really BAD if I can't even read the second chapter!! I can't believe that paper was wasted publishing this atrocious mess!Published on Dec 30 2003
ive always enjoyed bill martins books starting with back bay. harvard yard is by far his best opus . i highly recomend it .Published on Dec 11 2003 by paul szep