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Lear Wife

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I am the queen of two crowns, banished fifteen years, the famed and gilded woman, bad-luck baleful girl, mother of three small animals, now gone. I am fifty-five years old. I am Lear's wife. I am here.

Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear's queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story.

Though her grief and rage may threaten to crack the earth open, she knows she must seek answers. Why was she sent away in shame and disgrace? What has happened to Kent, her oldest friend and ally? And what will become of her now, in this place of women? To find peace she must reckon with her past and make a terrible choice - one upon which her destiny, and that of the entire abbey, rests.

Giving unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has been a tantalising mystery, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss, renewal and how history bleeds into the present.

Every purchase you make supports the work of Shakespeare's Globe. Thank you!


Author: J R Thorpe

Format: Paperback

Size: 220 mm x 144 mm x 32 mm

Pages: 336

Staff Review

I have never read anything like Lear Wife. 


The book opens with Queen Lear being told that her husband and daughters are dead, and from the abbey King Lear banished her to, she slowly tells her story. She tells us of her memories of her first husband Michael, of her marriage to Lear, of Kent, of her relationship with her daughters and the failure to bear a male heir. All are weaved seamlessly into the present events unfolding at the convent. 


J R Thorpe has a very unique writing style with unusual poetic language. Very satisfyingly, the Queen she writes for Lear’s King sits perfectly among Shakespeare’s pantheon of head strong women who are the power behind the throne. Because of it’s distinctiveness it did take me a while to get into it, longer than usual, but in the end I was swept away by this strong, incomparable voice of Lear’s wife. 


Review by Hannah (Visitor Operations Assistant)