“Shakespeare’s Counsellor” by Charlaine Harris – a fine end to a good series

Shakespeare's Counsellor 2“Shakespeare’s Counselor” is the final book in the Lily Bard series. I was surprised to find that I took great pleasure in this series. In some ways it is one long novel, charting Lily’s journey from isolated, insomniac, night-walker, to a woman with a life that she has built through her strength, her integrity and finally by being courageous enough to allow herself to have something to lose.

The final book thankfully doesn’t go down the path of unlikely happy endings. Bad things happen to Lily in this book and, at the end of it, she still has significant problems, but the book delivers credible growth for her and the people around her.

One of the ways this growth is achieved  is that Lily enters therapy, with the Counselor of the title, to try to end the nightmares that rule her sleep. I was surprised at this. I’m not a fan of therapy. I’m with Willy Russel in changing Pschotherapist into Psycho The Rapist. I’ve never been convinced that the response to trauma should be a platitude-driven talking-tour of the route back to normalcy. I very much doubt that, after a significant trauma, normal is an option.

I was pleased to see that the therapy in the book worked less because of the skill of the counselor, than because the rape survivors in the group were willing to extend their trust and support to each other. There are some hard-to-take tales in therapy sessions. Sadly, none of them are difficult to believe. I was impressed that, even in therapy, Lily did not change her view that people are not naturally good and safety can only be obtained through vigilance and strength. Her counselor found the view bleak and wondered how Lily could live with it. I see it as a reasonable, fact-based conclusion, that provides a foundation for good choices.

The plot of “Shakespeare’s Counselor” is a little complex, requiring some suspension of disbelief as the bad guys are not exactly run of the mill. The action is occasionally violent and brutal. The events in Lily’s personal life add grief to an already tough situation and challenge Lily’s definition of herself and her future.

By the end of the series, Lily has moved from loner cleaner, to an apprentice private detective with a husband and friends in a community that she now feels part of. Yet this is not a “Hallmark” sugar-sweet transformation. This book, even more than the rest of the series, is raised above the mundane by the authenticity of Lily’s rage against what was done to her and the strength of her commitment to live her life to her own standards. It’s a fine close to a series that I am sure I will read again.

I listened to the audiobook version of this series, performed by Julia Gibson. She did a wonderful job, not just in being “the voice of Lily Bard” but also in creating and sustaining voices  for the other characters. She was the perfect choice for these books.

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