Review

Harvard Yard

by William Martin



In 1638, young Isaac Wedge settled uneasily into a fledgling school
in Cambridge, starting a tradition of Harvard men in his family.
Thereafter, it was simply expected that the Wedge sons would apply
when it came time to head off for college. The subsequent
generations lived through America's youth, its struggles for
identity, its wars, its triumphs and its tragedies. No matter what
they chose to study, at a minimum each learned to think for himself
and each learned to take a stand --- however disagreeable to his
parents or professors --- and in so doing, each left his mark on
the great university and this great country.

Now, over 350 years after the first Wedge graduate, the family has
come to believe a lost Shakespearean play exists and that it
belongs to them. Back in the 1700s, Lydia Wedge --- a poet, and a
bad one at that --- penned a cryptic promise that Harvard would
receive "a small gift of majestic proportion" when it welcomed
women into its student body. She left instructions to future Wedges
on its care and handling until that day arrived. But unforeseen
events intervened and the family lost track of its whereabouts. Now
one member of the family, Ridley Wedge Royce, enlists the aid of
his friend, antique books dealer Peter Fallon, to help find this
priceless treasure. When Fallon realizes he has attracted the
interest of some violent and unsavory types, he starts to take the
request more seriously. Then one of the Wedges turns up dead and
Fallon throws himself into the quest with vigorous
determination.

As Fallon searches for the lost folio, author William Martin takes
us back in time to explain how it came into the Wedge possession
--- earlier, actually, back when John Harvard received it from Will
Shakespeare himself. In one chapter, Martin guides us through the
years pertinent to the school's history, then in the next brings us
back to Fallon as he is unearthing more clues. With each new
Harvard candidate, time moves on and the story leaves the old
behind and a new Wedge student carries the secret of the lost
Shakespearean manuscript. Meanwhile, Fallon works to unravel the
puzzle.

In the first hundred pages or so, such an abundance of information
comes at you that it can seem overwhelming. But once you catch the
rhythm of the book, you get so caught up in the family's doings
that the sheer breadth of the book becomes easily manageable. To
simplify a seemingly expansive undertaking, Martin has graciously
provided a genealogical chart of the Wedge lineage and a diagram of
the Harvard campus. After you've devoured the first six or seven
chapters, the pace quickens sharply, the mystery takes shape, and
you can't help but care what happens to the Wedges and their
treasure.

I can almost guarantee that you'll find HARVARD YARD irresistible
--- in fact, nearly impossible to put down. It may not look like a
page-turner, but it is.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011

Harvard Yard
by William Martin

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446530840
  • ISBN-13: 9780446530842