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review 2017-05-23 16:41
If We Were Villains / M.L. Rio
If We Were Villains: A Novel - M. L. Rio

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

 

Wow, that was a first novel? For me, it was perfection. A good twisty mystery, lots of Shakespeare, and THAT ENDING.

Dellecher Classical Conservatory is like Hogwarts for Arts students and this novel focuses on the fourth year Drama students. They’ve been marinating in Shakespearean drama for four years and have maybe absorbed more than they think. The narrator, Oliver, is most often cast as a supporting character and the others agree that he is a giving actor and a giving person. Despite that, the reader realizes that he seems to be pretty clueless—not very observant, he makes some of his most important realizations during performances of the Shakespearean tragedies.

The little that we see of Oliver’s family indicates that there is something desperately wrong—Oliver doesn’t want to go home to them and can hardly wait to leave. One of his sisters has a serious eating disorder and Oliver resents that his family can’t pay for her treatment AND his tuition. There is a serious attitude of entitlement, not only in Oliver, but in all of these students. I didn’t like a single one of them, but I loved the story!

I would love to be able to conduct conversations in Shakespeare quotes! That level of expertise in the plays would delight me. If nothing else, this book has certainly inspired me to continue with my project to see all of Shakespeare’s plays.

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text 2017-05-17 18:08
Plan of Attack
If We Were Villains: A Novel - M. L. Rio
The Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales from Around the World - Lloyd Bloom,Ethel Johnston Phelps
The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero - Susannah Clements
Shadow Games - Glen Cook
Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard - Laura Bates
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

So, I am once again overwhelmed with library books and I have to get cracking!

 

I should be finished If We Were Villains in one more evening, if the cat lets me and I can stay awake.  (Mr. Cat leaped on me in bed this morning at 5:45 a.m. to let me know he was ready for me to get up.  And he'd been such a polite bed-partner until then).

 

Maid of the North is an interlibrary loan which can't be renewed, but it reads fast.  I will finish it this weekend for sure.  Same thing with The Vampire Defanged.

 

Shadow Games has been put on hold far too frequently and I really want to finish it up quickly, too.

 

Then the next 2 library books to tackle are Shakespeare Saved My Life and The Three Musketeers.  I've renewed them both on at least a couple of occasions and I'll soon not be able to renew again.  Gotta get cracking!

 

My mission is clear.

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text 2017-05-17 14:49
Reading progress update: I've read 256 out of 368 pages.
If We Were Villains: A Novel - M. L. Rio

All his peers call Oliver 'the nice one.'  So why do I dislike him so much?

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text 2017-05-16 14:53
Reading progress update: I've read 186 out of 368 pages.
If We Were Villains: A Novel - M. L. Rio

All of these characters are absolutely despicable and yet I am loving this book! 

 

A young man, just out of jail, talking to the retiring cop who put him away.  The cop has something up his sleeve, but I have no idea what.  And I wonder how candid Oliver (the former prisoner) is being?

 

More questions than answers.

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review 2017-04-22 16:57
If We Were Villains...
If We Were Villains: A Novel - M. L. Rio

Because I am huge fan of Shakespeare and all that entails this book worked for me on every level. I lived this book and loved it. It is a homage to the bard and of course an atmospheric, beautifully layered and indomitably emotional story in its own right.

The comparisons to The Secret History are for once quite valid, but shoot me if you like, I much preferred this. I'm not a fan of Tartt's overly pretentious and self absorbed writing style that lacks any sense of editing, its not that I didn't enjoy The Secret History I did, but it banged on interminably at times taking 5000 words to get as much depth into the action as M L Rio manages here in mere paragraphs. So as a very subjective thing for me this was much better. Plus I should probably say its similarities are less than its differences so any comparisons made are on the surface.

I read it in 4 hours today stopping only for caffeine hits and got entirely caught up in this insular, elite and yes pretentious world of a group of theatre students whose friendship, love and obsession leaks off the stage and into their personal interactions. The author uses Shakespeare both allegorically and practically - the language they speak, the way they form ties, its all beautifully written and stunningly addictive. The last paragraph shot me off my chair, so perfectly clever was it, having been lulled into the ebb and flow of a novel that seemed to be done with me at that point suddenly going ha ha NO now you will think of me always. And I will..

An amended and fuller review will follow when I'm on the blog tour but this is going to be a novel I return to again and again. For its rich language, its incredibly divisive characters and its beautiful tribute to the work of Shakespeare, a man who formed the basis of a whole lot of our pop culture language use today. For me it was spot on perfect

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