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Extended Audio Sample The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,591 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Arthur Phillips Narrator: David Aaron Baker, A Full Cast Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Bestselling author Arthur Phillips won critical acclaim for his novels Prague and The Egyptologist, and Publishers Weekly called him a “master manipulator” for his ability to write fiction spun out of imagination and illusion. In The Tragedy of Arthur, Phillips tells the (mostly) true story of being asked to write the introduction to a lost Shakespeare play entitled The Most Excellent and Tragical Historie of Arthur, King of Britain.

The doomed hero of this tale is a young novelist struggling with a con artist father who works wonders of deception. Imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, Arthur’s father reveals a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by William Shakespeare. Arthur and his twin sister inherit their father’s mission to see the manuscript published and acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity—unless it’s their father’s last great con.

By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel, which includes Shakespeare’s lost play in its entirety, brilliantly subverts our notions of truth, fiction, genius, and identity, as the two Arthurs—the novelist and the ancient king—play out their strangely intertwined fates.
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Quotes & Awards

  • “Splendidly devious.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Arthur Phillips has found the perfect vehicle for his cerebral talents: his ingenuity; his bright, elastic prose; and, most notably, his penchant for pastiche—for pouring his copious literary gifts into old vessels and reinventing familiar genres.”

    New York Times

  • “Devious and exhilarating…an irresistible family drama bundled into an exploration of fraud and authenticity.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Wily and witty…an engrossing family saga [with] sparkling and imaginative prose. Shakespeare would applaud a man who does him so proud.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “[Balances] a moving story of familial and romantic love on a deliberately unsteady fictional edifice…[an] exuberant chimera of a novel.” 

    New Yorker

  • “The story of a family that is Shakespearean in several senses…[The Tragedy of Arthur] contains literary echoes of Nabokov, Stoppard and even…Thomas Pynchon.” 

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “A circus of a novel, full of wit, pathos and irrepressible intelligence.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • A 2011 Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Book
  • A 2011 Washington Post Best Book
  • A 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book
  • A 2011 Library Journal Best Book
  • Top 5 for the 2011 Salon Magazine Best Book Award
  • An 2011 ALA Notable Book
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Finalist
  • One of the 2011 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Angie | 2/2/2014

    " The tragedy of this book is that it was written...and that I read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jon | 1/16/2014

    " This book may be my favorite novel of the year so far. It looks at truth and faith and familial relationships while also incorporating a lot of Shakespeare. Arthur Phillips (the character in the book) is bequeathed a "lost" Shakespeare play from his father, a convicted forger and con man. The first 250 pages are his introduction where he recounts the story of the play and his family's history. Then the last one hundred pages are the play itself. I was expecting it to be painful, but Phillips created a convincing and entertaining psuedo-Shakespearean play. Thumbs up! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by mwbham | 1/3/2014

    " I stopped at page 121. I thought the premise was very clever and I wanted to like the book. But, Arthur's consistent whining about his life, his father, his work, was too distracting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Scott | 1/2/2014

    " From the openning disclaimer from Random House to the point/counterpoint endnotes, this book was remarkable. Arthur Phillips wove themes throughout this book and the accompanying play that touched on the importance of reality and being right, the need for wonder and enchantment in our lives, and the importance of believing in someone. I have to admit that I was disappointed when the 'preface' ended and the play began, because I wanted to stay with the character of Arthur Phillips and his twin and 'Petra' longer, but I was soon captivated by 'Shakespeare's' Tragedy. I loved the quips between Arthur and the expert throughout the endnotes-just enough to be humorous but not distracting. I was also amazed at how true to Shakespeare the play was. After finishing this book I sampled some plays since I have not read any Shakespeare in years, but Phillips captured his rhythms and language well. From beginning to end a truly enjoyable, thought provoking book. After reading more Shakespeare, I plan to find some of Phillips' previous books. "

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About the Author

Arthur Phillips is the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Song is You, Prague, The Egyptologist, and others. Prague was named a New York Times Notable Book and received the Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. His books Angelica and The Song Is You were both optioned for film, the former by Mitchell Lichtenstein and the latter by Focus Features. Phillips received his BA in history from Harvard University, and he had several occupations before becoming a novelist, including a speechwriter, a jazz musician, and a child actor; he is also a five-time Jeopardy! champion. He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.