Synopses & Reviews
The Tragedy of Arthur
is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips, "one of the best writers in America." (The Washington Post
Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father’s and his beloved twin sister’s deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare — a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.
Years later, Arthur's father, imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, shares with Arthur a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, titled The Tragedy of Arthur. But Arthur and his sister also inherit their father’s mission: to see the play published and acknowledged as the Bard's last great gift to humanity....
Unless it's their father's last great con.
By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel — which includes Shakespeare's (?) lost King Arthur play in its five-act entirety — captures the very essence of romantic and familial love and betrayal. The Tragedy of Arthur explores the tension between storytelling and truth-telling, the thirst for originality in all our lives, and the act of literary mythmaking, both now and four centuries ago, as the two Arthurs — Arthur the novelist and Arthur the ancient king — play out their individual but strangely intertwined fates.
"A long-lost Shakespeare play surfaces in Phillips's wily fifth novel, a sublime faux memoir framed as the introduction to the play's first printing a Modern Library edition, of course. Arthur Phillips and his twin sister, Dana, maintained an uncommon relationship with their gregarious father, a forger whose passion for the bard and for creating magic in the everyday (he takes his kids to make crop circles one night) leave lasting impressions on them both: Dana becomes a stage actress and amateur Shakespeare expert; Arthur a writer who 'never much liked Shakespeare.' Their father spends most of their lives in prison, but when he's about to be released as a frail old man, he enlists Arthur in securing the publication of The Tragedy of Arthur from an original quarto he claims to have purloined from a British estate decades earlier, though, as the authentication process wears on successfully Arthur becomes convinced the play is his father's greatest scam. Along the way, Arthur riffs on his career and ex-pat past, and, most excruciatingly, unpacks his relationship with Dana and his own romantic flailings. Then there's the play itself, which reads not unlike something written by the man from Stratford-upon-Avon. It's a tricky project, funny and brazen, smart and playful. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Ingenious... [Phillips] presents [his characters] with a wry generosity and a haunting poignancy to rival his wonderfully subversive wit.” The New York Times
“A wonder, a work of imaginative prowess... It’s ambitious. It’s inventive. It’s challenging....Phillips’s approach is certainly literary, but he also knows how to craft a twisting, page-turning tale.” San Francisco Chronicle, on The Egyptologist
“[A] masterpiece...seamlessly mixes psychological disintegration, the dissolution of a marriage and...a classic ghost story.” USA Today, on Angelica
About the Author
Arthur Phillips is the internationally bestselling author of The Song Is You, which was a New York Times Notable Book and named one of the best novels of the year by The Washington Post; Angelica; The Egyptologist; and Prague, which was also a New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.