Book reviews, new books, publishing news, book giveaways, and author interviews

Book List: books set in the theatre

As someone with a bit of a creative streak, I love reading books that draw on other creative areas such as art and performance. With that in mind, I thought Id put together a list of books set in the theatre. As always, this list is in no way comprehensive, so feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions for additions.

(If you like this list, you might also like our list of books about books)

phantom of the opera leroux Book List: books set in the theatre

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Blurb:He lurked in the shadows of the Paris Opera Housea man with the voice of an angel but the face of a monster. His only hope for love is a beautiful soprano who draws him . . . to disaster.


the jumbee keyes Book List: books set in the theatre

The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes (see our review)

Blurb: When Esti Legard starts theater school on Cariba, shes determined to step out of the shadow of her late father, a famous Shakespearean actor. But on an island rife with superstition, Esti canOt escape the darkness. In the black of the theater, an alluring phantom voiceknown only as Alanbecomes her brilliant drama tutor, while in the light of day Esti struggles to resist her magnetic attraction to Rafe, the local bad boy. Toppled sets, frightening rumors of jumbee ghosts, and brewing tropical storms culminate in a tantalizingly spooky finale where romance sizzles and truths are unmasked. Laced with eerie mystery and the lush scenery of the West Indies, this modern Phantom is perfect for readers who like their love stories served with spine-tingling suspense.


black snow bulgakov Book List: books set in the theatre

Black Snow by Mikhail Bulgakov

Blurb: When Maxudovs bid to take his own life fails, he dramatises the novel whose failure provoked the suicide attempt. To the resentment of literary Moscow, his play is accepted by the legendary Independent Theatre and Maxudov plunges into a vortex of inflated egos. With each rehearsal more sparks fly and the chances of the play being ready to perform recede. Black Snow is the ultimate back-stage novel and a brilliant satire by the author of The Master and Margarita on his ten-year love-hate relationship with Stanislavsky, Method-acting and the Moscow Arts Theatre.


theatre somerset maugham Book List: books set in the theatre

Theatre by W Somerset Maugham

Blurb: Julia Lambert is in her prime, the greatest actress in England. On stage she is a true professional, in full possession of her emotions. Off stage, however, she is bored with her husband, less disciplined about her behaviour. She is at first amused by the attentions of a shy but ambitious young fan, then thrilled by his persistence and at last wildly but dangerously in love Although Maugham is most celebrated as a novelist and short-story writer, it was as a playwright that he first knew success. Theatre is both a tribute to a world from which he had retired and a persuasive testimony to his enthusiasm for drama and the stage.


house lights hager cohen Book List: books set in the theatre

House Lights by Leah Hagen Cohen

Blurb: Late in her twentieth year, Beatrice, who dreams of a life on the stage, is confronting a home life torn asunder. She mails a letter on the sly to her grandmother, a legendary actress long estranged from the family, sparking events that will change her life forever. Powerfully written and psychologically intricate,'House Lights illuminates the corrosive power of family secrets and the redemptive struggle to find truth, forgiveness, and love.


lives of the circus animals bram Book List: books set in the theatre

Lives of the Circus Animals by Christopher Bram

Blurb: A comedy of manners explores themes of love, work, success, and failure in the world behind the scenes of contemporary New York theater by the author of Father of Frankenstein and The Notorious Dr. August.


eyes like stars mantchev Book List: books set in the theatre

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Blurb: All her worlds a stage.'Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theatre.'She is not an orphan, but she has no parents.'She knows every part, but has no lines of her own.'Until now.'Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every place ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book'an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family'and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.


morality play unsworth Book List: books set in the theatre

Morality Play by Barry Unsworth

Blurb: It is the late fourteenth century, a dangerous time beset by war and plague. Nicholas Barber, a young and wayward cleric, stumbles across a group of travelling players and compounds his sins by joining them. Yet the town where they perform reveals another drama: a young woman is to be hanged for the murder of a twelve-year-old boy. What better way to increase their takings than to make a new play, to enact the murder of Thomas Wells? But as the actors rehearse, they discover that the truth about the boys death has yet to be revealed.


I nearly died spencer 193x300 Book List: books set in the theatre

I Nearly Died by Charles Spencer

Blurb: A showbiz comedy-thriller. For Will Benson, life on Theatre World has its compensations, mostly in the nicely rounded shape of Kim, the chief sub-editor. But there are drawbacks, too, and somewhere out there is Wills own personal psychotic, whos pretty handy with a crossbow.


good companions priestley Book List: books set in the theatre

The Good Companions by JB Priestley

Blurb: The Good Companions follows a number of discontents or lost souls as they respectively gravitate towards a concert troupe that is on the verge of disbanding. An adventure around the Shires of England following the fates and fortunes of the unlikely group, The Good Companions is a popular contemporary classic which has recently experienced a resurgence in public interest and acclaim due to the finesse of Priestleys writing.


shakespeare curse carrell Book List: books set in the theatre

The Shakespeare Curse by JL Carrell

Blurb:'Macbeth is a famously cursed play, fraught with gruesome violence and supernatural evil. Some of Kate Stanleys friends question her choosing to direct its production for the 400th anniversary of its first performance, but Kates expertise in the little-known secrets and obscure mysteries of Shakespeare make her a natural. However, bizarre ritual objects begin to turn up at rehearsals, and it becomes clear someone is using the production to send a message in the form of very dark ancient magic. The cast is unnerved both by the gruesome pranks and the historical creepiness of this play, and consider abandoning the production. But a local young boy, the namesake of the 17th-century actor who first played the role of Lady Macbeth, is abducted, and the puzzling ransom notes make the boys survival dependent upon making the play happen. As opening night approaches, Kate digs deep into the obscure and magical allusions in Macbeth, and draws on all her skill and knowledge of occult Shakespeare to decipher the ransom note riddles and save the kidnapped boy.


confessions of edward day Book List: books set in the theatre

The Confessions of Edward Day'by Valerie Martin

It's the 1970s in New York'rents are cheap, love is free, and with the explosion of theater venues off and off-off Broadway, aspiring actors will work for nothing in no clothes. Enter Edward Day, who wants more than anything to move an unsuspecting audience to an experience of emotional truth. But he must also contend with the drama of his own life: he is locked in a bitter rivalry with fellow actor Guy Margate, with whom he shares a marked physical resemblance and a fatal attraction to the beautiful, talented, and all-too-available Madeleine Delavergne. Edward's pursuit of Madeleine is complicated by the fact that he owes Guy his life. In this riveting tale of paranoia, passion, jealousy, and relentless ambition, Edward will learn that the truth, in the theater as in life, is ever elusive and never inert.


the queens tiara Book List: books set in the theatre

The Queens Tiara'by'Carl Jonas Love Almqvist

Blurb:'This novel combines the tale of the beautiful and androgynous Tintomara with the assassination of Gustave III on the stage of his own opera house at a masque ball in 1792.


garrick year drabble Book List: books set in the theatre

The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble

Blurb: Once a model and now a mother of two, Emma has little life of her own. When her husband David is invited to star in two plays in Hereford, and Emma is obliged to leave her beloved London behind, the resentment begins to surface.


freeze my margarita henderson Book List: books set in the theatre

Freeze My Margarita by Lauren Henderson

Blurb: A chance meeting in a fetish club with an old friend from art school leads to a new sculpting job for Sam: creating a series of mobiles for an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. Plunged into the strange world of theater, Sam mingles with a bizarre, vexing, but often amusing cast of characters, including the appalling Helen, the girlfriend of Sams best friend Janey, and Hugo, an enigmatic and acidly humorous actor with a wry Peter Wimsey drawl and a perfectly shaped bottom. After a long string of disappointing boyfriends, Sam may have finally met her match with Hugo. Now if she could only figure out whether or not hes gayThis pressing state of affairs is overshadowed only by the discovery of a decomposing body in the basement beneath the theater. Sam, whos unfortunately grown accustomed to stumbling across dead bodies, is hardly fazed, but as the mysterious deaths increase and a practical joker starts to sabotage performances of the play, Sam realizes that unless the killer is caught, she may be facing her own curtain call.


awfully big adventure bainbridge Book List: books set in the theatre

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

Blurb: It is 1950 and the Liverpool reporatory theatre company is rehearsing its Christmas production of Peter Pan, a story of childhood innocence and loss. Stella has been taken on as assistant stage manager and quickly becomes obsessed with Meredith, the dissolute director. But it is only when the celebrated OHara arrives to take the lead, that a different drama unfolds. In it, he and Stella are bound together in a past that neither dares to interpret.


the rehearsal by eleanor catton Book List: books set in the theatre

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

A high-school sex scandal jolts a group of teenage girls into a new awareness of their own potency and power. The sudden and total publicity seems to turn every act into a performance and every platform into a stage. But when the local drama school decides to turn the scandal into a show, the real world and the world of the theatre are forced to meet, and soon the boundaries between private and public begin to dissolve. The Rehearsal is an exhilarating and provocative novel about the unsimple mess of human desire, at once a tender evocation of its young protagonists and a shrewd expose of emotional compromise.


next season blakemore Book List: books set in the theatre

Next Season by Michael Blakemore

Blurb: Noted director Michael Blakemore is renowned for such Broadway successes as Joe Egg, Noises Off and City of Angels. In the introduction, Simon Callow says of Blakemores book, There have been remarkable novels of the theatre, but no other book has so truly depicted the creative anarchic excitement of acting. Next Season is the finest fictional celebration of the passionate craft of the actor about the demands and rewards of acting, what it takes from you, what it gives you back. Acting as work, work as possion!An outstanding theatre novel extremely readable and informative.- The London Times


ruddy gore Book List: books set in the theatre

Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood
Blurb: Running late to a gala performance of Gilbert and Sullivans Ruddigore, Phryne Fisher meets some thugs in dark alley and handles them convincingly before they can ruin her silver dress. She then finds that she has rescued the handsome Lin Chung, and his grandmother, who briefly mistake her for a deity.'Denying divinity but accepting cognac, she later continues safely to the theatre where her night is again interrupted by a bizarre death onstage.'What links can Phryne find between the ridiculously entertaining plot of Ruddigore, the Chinese community of Little Bourke St., or the actors treading the boards of His Majestys Theatre?
a series of murders brett1 Book List: books set in the theatre
A Series of Murders'by Simon Brett
Blurb:'Charles Paris is an unhappily separated (but not divorced, more than 30 years on), moderately successful actor with a slight drinking problem who gets entangled in all sorts of crimes, and finds himself in the role of unwilling amateur detective.
maskerade by terry pratchett Book List: books set in the theatre
Maskerade'by Terry Pratchett
Blurb:'The show must go on, as murder, music and mayhem run riot in the nightThe Opera House, Ankh-Morporka huge, rambling building, where innocent young sopranos are lured to their destiny by a strangely-familiar evil mastermind in a hideously-deformed evening dressAt least, he hopes so. But Granny Weatherwax, Discworlds most famous witch, is in the audience. And she doesnt hold with that sort of thing. So theres going to be trouble (but nevertheless a good evenins entertainment with murders you can really hum)
enter a murdrer Book List: books set in the theatre
Enter a Murderer'by Ngaio Marsh
Blurb:'The script of the Unicorn Theatres new play uncannily echoes a quarrel in the stars dressing room. And the stage drama gets all too real when charming Felix Gardner shoots his blustering rival, Arthur Surbonardier, dead with a gun Arthur loaded with blanks. Or did he? How the live bullets got there, and why, make for a convoluted case that pits Inspector Roderick Alleyn against someone who rates an Oscar for a murderously clever performance.
See also:
opening night marsh Book List: books set in the theatre


  1. Every time I see The Phantom of the Opera or The Jumbee mentioned, I end up with music from the musical Phantom of the Opera stuck in my head! Ive never read either, but I should probably read both.

    • Stephanie /

      Ive seen The Phantom of the Opera, but havent read the book (although I definitely plan to after having read The Jumbee). I was a bit mixed on The Jumbee. Its a novel with so much potential, but didnt quite work for me.

  2. Great idea for a list and some great books. I am on a Maugham jag, so will try to find a copy of Theatre. Some of the others look very good too.


    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for popping by :) I loved Maughams Of Human Bondage, so Theatre definitely looks like another to check out!

  3. Ruddy Gore Book #7 in Kerry Greenwoods Phyrne Fisher series is set in a theatre production

  4. Stephanie /

    Thanks so much for the recommendation, Shelley Rae. Ill add it in when I get a chance. :)