A wild and hallucinatory reimagining of Elizabethan London, with its bird worshippers, famed child actors, and the Queen herself; a dazzling historical novel about theatre, magic, and the dangers of all-consuming love
London, 1601—a golden city soon to erupt in flames. Shay is a messenger-girl, falconer, and fortune teller who sees the future in the patterns of birds. Nonesuch is the dark star of the city’s fabled Blackfriars Theatre, where a cast of press-ganged boys perform for London’s gentry. When the pair meet, Shay falls in love with the performances—and with Nonesuch himself. As their bond deepens, they create the Ghost Theatre, an underground troupe that performs fantastical plays in the city’s hidden corners. As their fame grows the troupe fans the flames of rebellion among the city’s outcasts, and the lovers are drawn into the dark web of the Elizabethan court. Embattled, with the plague on the rise throughout the country, the Queen seeks a reading from Shay, a moment which unleashes chaos not only in Shay’s life, but across the whole of England too.
A fever-dream full of prophecy and anarchy, gutter rats and bird gods, Mat Osman’s The Ghost Theatre is a wild ride from the rooftops of Elizabethan London to its dark underbelly, and a luminous meditation on double lives and fluid identities and the bewitching, transformative nature of art and power, with a bittersweet love affair at its heart. Set amid the vividly rendered England of Osman’s imagination and written in rich, seductive prose, The Ghost Theatre will have readers under its spell from the very first page.
About the Author
Mat Osman is a musician, songwriter, bassist, and founding member of the British band Suede, as well as a composer for film and television. His writing about art and travel has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, and Observer and more. He is the author of the novel The Ruins and he lives in the UK.
“Deliciously immersive, wildly imaginative, and not to be missed—Mat Osman is a true Renaissance man.”
— M. L. Rio, author of If We Were Villains
“A story of rebellion and magic, of mysticism and broken love in the streets and theatre and rooftops of Elizabethan London. Beautifully written, delicate, and sad. I’m still haunted by it.”
— Mariana Enríquez, author of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed and Things We Lost in the Fire
"Smart, bold, and original, The Ghost Theatre brings to life a slantwise Elizabethan London where appearance is everything and nothing you see can be trusted. Every page is alive with the heady, dangerous energy of an opening night, and Shay and Nonesuch are unforgettable. For readers who like their historical fiction with imagination and flair, this book is a must-read." — Allison Epstein, author of A Tip for the Hangman
"The star of the show in The Ghost Theatre is Osman's fanciful rendering of Elizabethan England, sometimes dreamlike, sometimes apocalyptic, depicted with such a wealth of sensory detail that it blurs the line between memory and fantasy." — Dexter Palmer, author of Mary Toft; Or, The Rabbit Queen
"Superb. . . . The Ghost Theatre finds its way into the hidden corners of Elizabethan London, telling the story of a group of misfit actors. Beautifully written and completely convincing." — Observer
“Combining breathtaking world-building with vivid characterization . . . An imaginative tour-de-force of theatre, magic, love, and betrayal.”
"The Ghost Theatre begins with a London rooftop chase worthy of Mission: Impossible . . . a vigorous adventure." — Guardian
"This imaginative novel brings a raucous, evocative world to life." — Sunday Express
"Hauntingly beautiful . . . thrilling and thought-provoking." — Independent