John Harington, author and ambitious courtier in Queen Elizabeth’s court, tells the story of his life, comparing it with that of Jeffrey Archer – jailed politician-turned-successful author. The unique thing about Harington being a narrator is that he has been dead for about four hundred years, which makes the story and the comparisons and contrasts between the lives all the more surprising and fascinating.
English Lord, John Harington’s voice is razor-sharp, eloquent and humorous. Harington reveals his abhorrence for privies (setting the stage for his invention of the flush toilet), and captures the minutia of day-to-day observations of life n England around the 1600s – from the setting to the voice of the people to the medical practice of bloodletting to the barbaric practices of the men who set out to civilize Ireland. Harington repeatedly refers back to Archer’s life then returns to the reflecting on the parallels in his life with smooth transitions. Harington’s lively personality, tongue-in-cheek humor and sharp observations keep the pace of the story moving along quickly:
“The problem with truth is its tendency to uncover lies and deceptions.”
Author Will Coe expertly uses well-chosen words to show the beauty and ugliness of life. For example, following the removal of the hand of a printer/publisher, “the bubbling mess of his arm was seared with a red hot iron.” This can be contrasted with the more scenic and serene moments:
“The light rain had passed on towards Cannington leaving its moisture to be gently cooked
by a shy sun on the lawns, in the shrubs and in the ornamental garden, releasing May’s
fragrant vapours into the motley noses of assembling courtiers and court officials.”
Coe admits to have taken liberties with some facts to create this unique story but ultimately creates a protagonist who is personable, and sympathetic and easily transports the entranced reader to another time and place.
The Archer Prism Reflecting Sir John Harington is an articulate and wry story, offering a plethora of intriguing and eye-raising historical facts and humor.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader