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The Tragedy of Arthur Audiobook, by Arthur Phillips Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Arthur Phillips Narrator: David Aaron Baker, A Full Cast Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781461803812
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)
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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 Reviews

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  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 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 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 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 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. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jaclyn | 12/7/2013

    " Some good bits, in particular the character of the father and the character relationships but overall a bit too self-referential, a bit too clever about the Shakespeare references, particularly with the resolution of the conflict. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 11/16/2013

    " I'm not sure what to make of this story, but it was fascinating, although uglier than I expected. What is reality and what is fiction? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mike | 9/11/2013

    " This seemed interesting but it's so heavily dependent on densely packed footnotes, and the experience just didn't work on my kindle. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 6/14/2013

    " Wow. Nabokovian tricksterism meets the Bard. In-jokes for Shakespeare geeks and a poignant story of parent/child relations, hubris, madness, and love. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 4/14/2013

    " A very interesting and unusual read. Thanks to having read some reviews online, I read the Introduction, then the Play in the back of the book, and then the rest of the Book. This worked really well for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kt | 4/8/2013

    " I enjoyed this book a lot although I am lukewarm about the author's attempt at the end to create his own version of a Shakespeare play. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tuck | 2/2/2013

    " an assured meta-fiction dealing wit W S, and a whole slew of Arthur's. i recommend all of Arthur Phillip's novels. This one is pretty tragic, but in a funny way. Well sometime funny. Plus has a new, never before published Shakespeare play. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brian | 7/7/2012

    " What a dreadful book. A cast of unlikable characters and an uninteresting Shakesperean pastiche that no one would take for an authentic text. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Patricia | 2/11/2012

    " I really enjoyed the book at first, where Arthur describes his and his sister Dana's childhood, but once the characters had grown up I became disinterested. Just another dysfunctional family story. I'm not that into Shakespeare, so even the play at the end didn't help interest me in the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anita | 12/28/2011

    " I didn't listen to the play but the intro was entertaining enough. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alice | 6/25/2011

    " This one is hard to rate. The sheer conceit, that a previously unknown Shakespeare play has been found, is unique. The play is even included, with footnotes, in the book! But somehow I just didn't care for the characters. The premise is brilliant, however. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 V | 6/24/2011

    " I've always enjoyed his books and really this one wasn't terrible at all-I'm just so very tired of the bumbling, self-deprecating male paired with the omniscient female, in general. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dan | 6/17/2011

    " Not only does he write a great novel, Phillips creates a brilliant 'Shakespeare play'. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jason | 6/16/2011

    " Phillips once again proves himself to be a creative, talented writer. The intro section runs on a bit and the play is pretty standard Shakespeare, plot-wise. Otherwise this is a really good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shawn | 6/16/2011

    " Clever and wildly inventive, certainly, and the prose wonderful as always, but the whole conceit becomes, for me, more than a little wearing long before the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dale | 6/12/2011

    " Incredible, interesting tale about a man and his con-man father, and a life of deceit and Shakespeare. The author skillfully weaves fact and fiction in a breathtaking mix. Includes the play, but the story's the thing, really. Quite a fun trip. So meta. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracy | 6/4/2011

    " Even if he hadn't pulled this off, the book's conceit is good enough that I would've finished this anyway. But he pulls it off! It's meta and Shakespearey and just a really good story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Scott | 5/25/2011

    " Really wonderful and fun and playful. "

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.

About the Narrators

David Aaron Baker is a voice and film actor. He is an award-winning narrator of dozens of audiobooks, including the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, Paradise Dogs by Man Martin, and The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig. He has earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a three-time finalist for the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration.

Calvin Trillin has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1963. He is the author of thirty books. His nonfiction includes Jackson, 1964; About Alice; and Remembering Denny. His humor writing includes books of political verse, comic novels, books on eating, and children’s poetry. In 2012, he was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor for Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff. In 2013, he was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame.