Archives for shakespeare

Book review: New Boy

When she arrives at school one day, Dee notices the new boy before anyone else and forsees he will have an impact on the world she lives in. Little does she know. This is Washington DC in the 1970s. A new black boy is starting his first day at an all-white school. New Boy: Othello Retold is not the usual novel you expect from Tracy Chevalier. Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare collection of novels by contemporary writers re-telling Shakespeare’s most famous plays, it is thought-provoking, ambitious, but not totally successful. Modernising such a well-known classic drama is always going to be problematic, with readers who love or hate it. Othello, possibly Shakespeare’s most political of plays, is about love, jealousy, sexual bullying and manipulation. Difficult subjects for a school. Some reviewers think this book should be marketed to adolescents but for me, the novel’s flaw lies in its timeframe. The action takes place over one school day so the arrival of Osei and his relationship with Dee charges from flirting, friendship, commitment to caressing, whispering and hurtful jealousy between the hours of nine in the morning and four-ish in the afternoon. There is simply too much to cram into one
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Vinegar Girl [The Taming of the Shrew Retold]

I love Anne Tyler’s writing. It is so simple and under-stated. She lets you slip so easily into the head and the world of her characters. This is her re-working of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Generally I dislike these artificial re-writes, but I made an exception for Tyler. After this, I may try some of the others. Kate is a pre-school teaching assistant and housekeeper for her distracted scientist father and teenage sister. She is dissatisfied with her life, can never seem to get things right, but doesn’t know how to change things. Admonished by her headmistress for being too frank with her young charges, she is not in the best of moods when her father introduces her to his lab assistant, Pytor. He seems a lumbering foreigner and Kate does not understand her father’s eagerness that they meet. Pytor has a problem, his work visa is about to expire and he must leave the country. Kate’s father is frantic, he simply cannot lose his irreplaceable assistant or his research project into autoimmune disorders will fail when it is so near success. What happens next is predictable except Tyler turns Shakespeare’s tale of Katherina and Petruchio into a
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Dark Aemilia

Shakespeare, tick. Possible identity of the Dark Lady, tick. Supernatural, witches and demons, tick. Stinking, plague-ridden London, tick. The Globe, white-faced boy actors dressed in velvet, smoke, whistles and special effects, tick. This is Dark Aemilia by Sally O’Reilly. Based on a foundation of history, O’Reilly tells the fictional story of real-life Aemilia Bassano and her love affair with William Shakespeare. There is no documentary evidence that this affair took place, but O’Reilly’s imagination conjures a rich story in which the setting of Elizabethan London is vibrant and believable. Wherever Aemilia goes – in an apothecary’s shop, in the audience at The Globe or standing at the edge of a plague pit – you can see, smell and hear her London. Aemilia is something of a feminist, in that she struggles against men her whole life for the freedom to live her own life. Orphaned at 12 she becomes mistress to Lord Hunsdon [readers of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl will be interested to know that Hunsdon was the real-life Henry, son of Mary Boleyn] but during an affair with Shakespeare, Aemilia falls pregnant. Hunsdon arranges a marriage for her to her cousin Alfonso Lanyer, and so Aemilia’s destiny
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Categories: Book Love.

Not all books are good

I can’t remember the specific book which caused the epiphany: not all books are good. I grew up devouring books. All books. Any books. From my father’s James Herriot to my mother’s Mary Stewart [This Rough Magic and The Moon-Spinners being particular favourites] via Agatha Christie loaned from the library, Shakespeare and Kingsley Amis at school, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf at university, I read it all. The epiphany of realizing that not all books were good was disappointing, almost a betrayal. A little like the realization that Mendelssohn was not English and that Fingal’s Cave was not in Scotland. No-one warned me that bad books got published too.   ‘This Rough Magic’ by Mary Stewart [UK: Hodder] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Not all #books are good: an epiphany as a teenager http://wp.me/p5gEM4-3z via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.