Words, Words, Words: Learwife

by J. R. Thorp

Thursday, September 08, 2022, 6:30 pm
Virtual Event on Zoom | 6:30 Eastern Time
Free, Registration required

"What do you read, my lord?"
"Words, words, words."
Hamlet, II.ii.209-10

About the Book Club

Join the Folger as we search the stacks for our favorite novels inspired by Shakespeare and the early modern era.

This informal Book Club is free and open to all. Our picks range from historical fiction to adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, encompassing a wide variety of genres—all sourced from a different local, independent bookstore partner each month.

To spark the discussion, Folger staff open each meeting with a brief presentation that provides historical context, trivia, and connects the book to relevant items from the Folger collection. Participants are then broken into smaller groups for breakout discussions, moderated by a team of staff and volunteers.

Participation is free but registration is required. Sessions will be conducted through Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link, along with recommendations for quick bites and beverages to enjoy while we chat.

Our September Pick

Learwife by J. R. Thorp

Content Transparency: This book contains references to an implied sexual assault.

Inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear, this breathtaking debut novel tells the story of the most famous woman ever written out of literary history.

"I am the queen of two crowns, banished fifteen years, the famed and gilded woman, bad-luck baleful girl, mother of three small animals, now gone. I am fifty-five years old. I am Lear's wife. I am here."

Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear's queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story.

Though her grief and rage may threaten to crack the earth open, she knows she must seek answers. Why was she sent away in shame and disgrace? What has happened to Kent, her oldest friend and ally? And what will become of her now, in this place of women? To find peace she must reckon with her past and make a terrible choice - one upon which her destiny, and that of the entire abbey, rests.

Giving unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has been a tantalising mystery, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss, renewal and how history bleeds into the present.

Read an excerpt on Shakespeare and Beyond Listen to J. R. Thorp on Shakespeare Unlimited

Why did we choose this?

The Folger Shakespeare Library's collection explores not only Shakespeare's life and works, but also the plays' historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.

Thorp's novel imagines a character absent from Shakespeare's story, offering a new perspective on one of his most famous tragedies. With moments that echo the plot of King Lear, Learwife gives readers an opportunity to consider the stories that are waiting to be told.

Order Your Book

Purchase Your Copy

This month, we are thrilled to once again partner with East City Bookshop, an independently run, woman-owned, community-minded bookstore on Capitol Hill. Check them out at eastcitybookshop.com.

Order online, by phone (202.290.1636) or email orders@eastcitybookshop.com. Pickup is available at the shop, or they ship (almost) anywhere!

You can also order this title as an e-book or download an audiobook version of this title from Libro.fm.


We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program: