Reading with Kat

Working Mother Book Blogger

Gosh, I love this book. Every now and then you come across a book and you think yes, this is my book, and that’s when you either speed up to find out what happened, or you slow down because you don’t ever want it to end. I slowed down…literally because audible plays books at different speeds, so I slowed down to 0.9 speed, which means I really love this book. Also when I finished, I almost re-read it again, that is how much I loved it.

In the beginning, the protagonist, Oliver is in prison telling the retired detective (Colborne) what really happened. The story then travels back in time to when Oliver was at a very special College (Dellecher) learning to be an actor; but this US College only teaches Shakespeare, how fantastic. We follow a group of 8 actors through a few years of learning their Shakespearean craft, they live together and study together and sometimes art imitates life and life imitates art. The language in this book is of course beautiful, as Shakespeare is interwoven expertly throughout. I particularly loved that the characters often spoke to each other exclusively using Shakespeares’ lines in a sort of word battle; I wish I was able to do that.

Here is an example of the beautiful language:

This,” James said, when he had disappeared. “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars … as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treacherers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting-on!”

The book often jumps back to Oliver being in prison and then back to “those years” so the whole time you keep thinking, what did he do? As you learn more about Oliver you start to wonder how he even ended up in prison, as he does not seem like a person who could do anything bad enough to warrant his 10-year jail sentence.

The narration on Audible is sublime, especially Richard’s voice; he sounded particularly commanding like the Shakespearean roles he played.

The ending was sad but also made you think, maybe…

I have so much more to say about this beautiful book, but I would ruin the book for you if I did, so just trust me on this and give it a try. I don’t really rank the books I read, as you may have noticed, but if I did, this would be an easy 10/10.

If you like well-written tame crime novels, if you enjoy Shakespeare or if you like stories involving students or wonder how do actors learn their craft then you should enjoy this book. This is one of my favourite books of 2021 and was liked by the entire book group who read it with me, which is rare.

One thought on “If We Were Villains by M L Rio

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