We are so excited to discuss Dandy Roll Book Club’s March pick--A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein--but in the meantime, I (Emily Walker, Content Creator for DRBC) have some recommendations for all different kinds of readers!
A Tip for the Hangman is part historical fiction, part spy novel, and part queer romance. Our protagonist, Christopher Marlowe, is one of the most infamous figures in the literary community, mainly for his sordid personal history and politically-charged plays, but also because his adult life is shrouded in a mystery that scholars are still unable to solve.
Epstein’s novel beautifully weaves the many facets of Kit’s history into the eventful and bloody tapestry of Elizabeth I’s England. While reading A Tip for the Hangman, the cast of This Must Be the Book gave their personal recommendations for fans of Kit Marlowe’s journey of self-discovery.
For non-fiction readers, check out Eleanor Herman's novels:
First up is non-fiction. If you were fascinated by Epstein’s portrayal of Elizabethan scandals, check out Eleanor Herman’s historical accounts of royal affairs throughout history (Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge; Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics; Sex with Presidents: the Ins and Outs of Love and Lust in the White House). Among Herman’s biographical portraits are Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard. Another great author in the sphere of Elizabethan history is Alison Weir, who writes about the lives of many influential figures in medieval and Elizabeth I’s England (The Life of Elizabeth I; The Six Wives of Henry VIII; The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn).
For a unique perspective into Elizabethan life, read Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell:
For readers who enjoyed the unique perspective in A Tip for the Hangman, try Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet. This one follows Shakespeare’s life and thought processes surrounding the creation of Hamlet… all from the point of view of his wife, a woman who is absent from a majority of historical accounts. The novel focuses on Agnes and their three children; the death of their son in 1596 drives Shakespeare to draft Hamlet, one of the most influential plays in Elizabethan history. A story of love, loss, and family, Hamnet is sure to interest fans of A Tip for the Hangman.
For another look at Elizabeth I's spy network, try The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips or The Eyes of the Queen by Oliver Clements:
I have two titles to recommend for those of you who loved the spy thriller side of A Tip for the Hangman. The first is The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Philips, which follows the last days of Elizabeth I’s reign and the scramble to name a successor. As we saw in Epstein’s novel, the Virgin Queen’s heir was a highly contested position--and one that people killed and died for. The next novel I have for you takes readers back in time to the first days of a young Elizabeth’s reign: The Eyes of the Queen by Oliver Clements. This novel highlights the difficulties at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, and Elizabeth’s struggle to keep the arts in the spotlight. It’s also crawling with spies; with threats coming from the Spanish crown, Her Majesty’s notorious spy network is born.
For a paranormal romance with a dose of historical fiction, read the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness:
For my paranormal romance lovers out there, I want to recommend A Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. This story follows Diana Bishop, a young professor (and hesitant witch) visiting Oxford University researching for a paper on medieval alchemical manuscripts. When she calls up a centuries-old manuscript from the stacks of the Bodleian, she unlocks an untraceable bit of magic that has creatures swarming from all around Oxford, including Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genetics professor looking to unravel the mysteries behind species origins. The trilogy weaves together medieval and Elizabethan history, science, and anthropology to create a hodgepodge of magical goodness. Kit Marlowe and Elizabeth I may even show up as characters along the way. This series also has a television adaptation.
For historical fiction centered around court life, pick up The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory:
Finally, we can’t talk about medieval court intrigue without mentioning Philippa Gregory. If you’re wanting historical romance with a side of royal scandal, start with The Other Boleyn Girl, a novel about Anne Boleyn’s path to the crown. Gregory also has series surrounding many other royal lines throughout medieval and Elizabethan history. A few of Gregory’s series have been adapted into television series, as well.
I hope that these recommendations find you well and that you’ll see your next great read here! We’re so excited to discuss A Tip for the Hangman with all of our readers. Happy reading!