I’ve always enjoyed Sophie Masson‘s books; to put it simply, her stories are imaginative and her prose is elegant. The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is no exception, (though it’s not one of my favourites of hers) inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Twelfth Night, and containing all that those titles imply: adventure, romance, mystery, magic, mistaken identity, and of course — a voyage that ends in a shipwreck upon the shores of an exotic island.
According to her author’s note, the name of the protagonist derives from her sister-in-law’s anecdote about teaching Shakespeare with texts published under the imprint Hopewell Shakespeare. Naturally one of her students assumed this was a relative of William Shakespeare, and after being reminded of this Masson ended up co-opting the name for her character.
Hopewell Shakespeare is a disappointment to his Puritan parents, being so caught up in his dreams of fortune and adventure, partly inspired by the plays of his distant relation William Shakespeare. After being harried in his work and disappointed in love, he decides to run away from his apprenticeship as a wheelwright and join a crew. As luck would have it, he bumps into a well-dressed gentleman who introduces himself as the legendary Captain Richard Wolfe of the Golden Dragon, and offers Hopewell a place upon his latest venture.
Though he is mysteriously disliked by the ship’s first mate, Hopewell quickly makes friends with the galley boy and realizes that there is a mystery brewing on board the Golden Dragon. Captain Wolfe is on a voyage to find the near-mythical Lost Island, a place ruled over by the Lord of Alchemists in which nothing is as it seems…
The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is an enjoyable little book, filled with Shakespearean quotes and allusions, as well as a dollop of The Odyssey when it comes to the magical Lost Island. As a main character, Hopewell can be naïve to the point of annoying, remaining oblivious to things the reader can pick up on almost instantly, and continuously choosing to trust the wrong people. Likewise the plot is a little haphazard, with so many shifting goals and agendas and disguises that it’s a little hard to keep track of it all.
Like I said, The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is not my favourite offering from Sophie Masson, and yet it’s never anything less than a fun read.