Edward St Aubyn – Dunbar

Edward St Aubyn – Dunbar

Henry Dunbar has lead his whole life a successful businessman whose orders are carried out immediately and who is not only in charge but in control. But now he finds himself in a sanatorium somewhere in the British countryside, locked away and sedated by his doctors. His eldest daughters Abby and Megan and the family doctor Bob have complotted against him to take over the Dunbar imperium. With his roommate Dunbar decides to flee and to get his life back. His youngest daughter Florence has also gotten wind of the other daughters’ doings and is rushing for help. While the old man is roaming the unknown country in a fierce storm, the sisters and their accomplices are plotting how to get out of the mess best, each one is fighting the others with insidious plans and tricks. But the old man is stronger than anyone would have thought.

“Dunbar” is part of the Shakespeare Hogarth project in which famous authors have transferred the bard’s stories into our modern time in honour of the 400th anniversary of his death. One of the four major tragedies provides the basis for this modern madness: King Lear.

Edward St Aubyn clearly is one of the most gifted authors of our time. He masterly managed to create a gripping story in which the core conflict of Shakespeare’s play can clearly be seen, but which speaks for itself and is a great pleasure to read from the very first to the last page. First of all, the setting. Transferring the king’s household to a media mogul’s family is absolutely adequate for today, it’s not only about power, but much more about the stock market and money. That’s what drives many people nowadays and for which they are willing to sell their own grandmother – or their father as it is here.

Strongest are the characters in the novel. The stubborn old head of the family who cannot be broken by medication and a remote clinic, who develops superhuman survival forces if needed but who finally finds the wisdom of the elderly and can see when in his life he was wrong – that’s one side of the story. Yet, I had a lot more fun with the beastly sisters Abby and Megan, they both are that sly and cunning – it was just a great fun to read (“Oh, God, it was so unfair! That selfish old man was spoiling everything”, Megan complains about her father when she learns that he has fled and her carefully designed plot is about to crumble down). Admittedly, I did not feel too much compassion for their Victim Dr. Bob, who, he himself, also was not the philantropic doctor whom you wish for but much more a turncoat seeking for his own benefit.

A lively family vendetta which completely gets out of control perfectly framed by Edward St Aubyn’s gifted writing. Great dialogues alternate with extraordinary inner monologues – for me so far one of the best works of the Hogarth Shakespeare series.



Hogarth Shakespeare – The Story So Far


In 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf founded the Hogarth Press so publish the best new works in literature. In 2012, the project was re-launched with the mission to have Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed authors. The following timeline above the project and its current state.

As a lover of the bard’s tragedies and comedies, I was of course curious to read the remakes. After half of the envisaged novels have been published, it is time to draw a first conclusion.

Jeanette Winterson – The Gap of Time

A wonderful novel which sticks quite close to the original plot but succeeds in transferring it to our days. What I admired most in it is the fact that it really shows that Shakespeare’s topics are universal, not only in place but also in time.

Find the complete review here: https://missmesmerized.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/jeanette-winterson-the-gap-of-time/

Howard Jacobson – Shylock Is My Name

I was a bit disappointed by this since I could not really relate to the characters and found most of it a rather confusing.

Find the complete review here (in German): http://miss-mesmerized.blogspot.de/2016/07/howard-jaconson-shylock-is-my-name.html

Anne Tyler – Vinegar Girl

I had so much fun reading this one, it is really hilarious what Anne Tyler made out of Shakespeare’s story.

Find the complete review here (in German): https://missmesmerized.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/anne-tyler-die-stoerrische-braut/

Margaret Atwood – Hag-Seed

My most beloved play, “The Tempest”, in a completely new shape which is in no way inferior to Shakespeare’s play.

Find the complete review here: https://missmesmerized.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/margaret-atwood-hag-seed/

All in all, apart from Jacobson, I loved the novels and admire the writers’ capacity of keeping the ghost of the story but making something new out of it which works in our time. I am looking especially forward to Jo Nesbo on “Macbeth” and Gillian Flynn on “Hamlet” which are to be published in the next years.

For more information, consult the Hogarth Shakespeare page: http://hogarthshakespeare.com/

Jeanette Winterson – The Gap of Time

Jeanette Winterson – The Gap of Time

Leo Kaiser is rich, he has everything he can wish for: money, a beautiful wife, MiMi, a beloved son, a successful business. Nevertheless, there is a certain guilt that he has been carrying around all his life: he was responsible for his best friend Xeno’s accident when they were kids. Is this the reason why Xeno has an affair with his wife and is the father of MiMi’s unborn child? MiMi and Xeno as well as his business partner Paulina try to make him see reality again, but Leo is stubborn and blinded by his anger. His rage finally leads to the catastrophe: his best friend gone, his son dead, his wife divorced and his daughter missing. Apart from his money, Leo has lost everything. On the other side of the world, Perdita grows up with a loving father and a caring older brother. She lives eighteen years not knowing what had happened to her real, biological family. When she meets the love of her life, suddenly, all the pieces match and add up to a completely new picture of her life.

The Gap of Time is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series and Jeanette Winterson has created a cover form of the bard’s comedy The Winter’s Tale. The author stuck quite close to the original: we have King Leontes – now Leo, king of a business imperium called Sicily; Hermione, his beautiful wife has become lovely singer MiMi; Polixenes, Leo’s childhood friend and later enemy shows up as Xeno; his son Florizel is now represented as Zel; the noblewoman Paulina who secretly holds the reins in both stories; and Shep(herd) and his son Clo(wn) who raise Perdita, the lost daughter. The plot itself has been placed into the computer game world of London and a bit refreshed to give the impression of a modern story. Albeit the story is known and the happy-end could be expected, I enjoyed the novel because Jeanette Winterson has a virtuous way of using language creating humorous and sharp puns and she does not refrain from openly alluding to Shakespeare himself. The comedy is downright entertaining from the first to the very last page and she absolutely managed to create characters who can surprise us, even though we are quite familiar with them, and seem to be authentic and imaginable as real persons.

Again, we can see also in this novel that Shakespeare’s plays can easily stand the test of time. Quite obviously, we have not developed any further during the last 400 years and are still governed by basic emotions such as love, pride, anger, desire, sadness and fear. Those universal sensations can easily be transferred to other places and times and do not lose any of their impact on human behaviour. One really has to congratulate the people behind Hogarth Shakespeare for picking gifted authors who make something new by respecting all that Shakespeare stands for. I am really looking forward to Jo Nesbo retelling Hamlet and Tracy Chevalier on Othello which both are to published in 2017. which both are to be


Margaret Atwood – Hag-Seed

Margaret Atwood – Hag-Seed

After many years as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, Felix is finally about to have one of Shakespeare’s most famous and magical plays performed: The Tempest. This will be a show like no other before – but fate has another plan for him; or rather Tony, his assistant, who has to deliver the information of Felix being fired by the board, a treachery well played by the second in row. Felix withdraws to some far away place where he not only mourns the loss of his job, but also the loss of his beloved daughter Miranda to whom he still talks as if she were alive. One day, the chance of getting back to work arises: The Fletcher Correctional Centre has set up some correction scheme involving theatre and Felix is to become the new teacher. He makes the prisoners experience Shakespeare in a completely new way and the outcome is stunning. In his fourth year, he selects The Tempest to see it finally on stage – and with the magical play comes his chance of revenge.

Hag-Seed is a novel of the Hogarth series in which authors re-write Shakespeare’s plays and transfer them to our days. Margaret Atwood has chosen quite a clever way of doing so, she integrates Shakespeare’s play into her novel, but that is – of course – not all this wonderful author manages to do: we have the play in the play, and we have characters who themselves incorporate the roles of the play in their fictional lives. Felix is undoubtedly Prospero using all his power to steer the people around him and to manipulate reality. His daughter Miranda, albeit dead, parallels Shakespeare’s Miranda in a very clever way. Sal and Tony, Felix’ enemies in the theatre world, can easily be identified as Antonio and Alonso. And the prisoners act as spirits and goddesses performing for Prospero-Felix. Apart from the characters, there are so many parallels between the drama and the novel, it would go far beyond the scope of this review to name them all.

Finding the parallels and detecting how Margaret Atwood transformed the drama into a modern novel, is great fun, but even more so is reading the dialogues. It is rare to have so much pleasure and entertainment when reading a rather serious plot; Felix’ interaction with the guards is hilarious, his work with the prisoner-students and their questions against the background of their criminal records and experiences in a world far away from elitist theatres, are fascinating. I wonder if the approach Felix’ chooses might not actually be the perfect way to bring Shakespeare’s ghost closer to today’s youth and thus become a model for teachers.

We know how much is hidden in Shakespeare’s plays and I have the impression that there is so much more in Atwood’s novel which I did not see at the first reading. This is definitely a novel worth giving a second read to dig deeper into what she has created. Coming back to the idea of the Hogarth series, I liked Anne Tyler’s version of The Taming of the Shrew a lot, but Hag-Seed is simply a masterpiece.

Anne Tyler – Die störrische Braut

Die stoerrische Braut von Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler – Die störrische Braut


Im Haushalt der Battistas läuft vieles anders als in anderen Häusern. Dr. Battista hat wenig Sinn für überflüssige Dinge wie Essen, die Spülmaschine wird aus und wieder eingeräumt, warum den Umweg über den Küchenschrank nehmen? Die Töchter muss er alleine erziehen, wobei das eher in der Hand der Natur liegt, lieber verkriecht er sich in sein Labor. Entsprechend fristet Kate mit 29 ein jungfernhaftes Leben mit einem Job im Kindergarten, den sie hasst, der aber nach Abbruch des Studiums die einzige Alternative war. Bunny ist mit ihren 15 Jahren das genaue Gegenteil. Das eingespielte Trio lebt nach festen Routinen bis diese einen herben Schlag erhalten: Dr. Battistas Assistent droht ausgewiesen und somit die letzten Jahre Forschung zunichte gemacht zu werden. Da wäre es dich passend, wenn Pjotr einfach Kate heiraten könnte. Völlig überraschend für den Vater ist die zukünftige Braut ist wenig angetan von der Idee, den schrägen Polen zu ehelichen.

Anne Tylers Roman ist eine Hommage an William Shakespeares “ Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung“ und im Ehrenjahr des großen Dichters erschienen. Der Autorin gelingt es den leichten Ton der Komödie auch in ihrem Buch aufzugreifen. Mit viel Situationskomik und schrulligen Charakteren ist das Lesen ein wahres Vergnügen. Der durchaus etwas stereotypisch geratene Forscher, dem der Alltag zuwider ist, die störrische junge Frau, die mit ihrer direkten Art aneckt, aber durch ihre intelligenten Anmerkungen viel Spaß macht, das etwas dumpfe junge Mädchen und zuletzt der sprachlich eingeschränkte Einwanderer – in der Tat ein Kuriosenkabinett. Das alles in einem Plot ohne große Schnörkel, aber mit kleinen Verwicklungen, die für reichlich Turbulenzen sorgen und so ein herrlich unterhaltsames Lustspiel ergeben.

Was ist von den Remakes von Shakespeares Stücken zu halten? Der große Dichter hat ja nun selbst seine Plots übernommen, Generationen und Jahrhunderte überdauernde Motive gewählt, die gerade deshalb auch heute noch populär sind. Ein bekanntes Sujet zu transformieren und zu adaptieren ist keine leichte Sache, wenn es originell und überzeugend werden soll. Anne Tyler ist das gelungen. Sie kann unterhalten, das Setting passt in die heutige Zeit, ist in sich stimmig und transportiert meines Erachtens den Geist Shakespeares auf wunderbare Weise: das Volk kam ins Theater, um unterhalten zu werden. Anne Tyler bietet ein Buch an und der Leser wird unterhalten.

Herzlichen Dank an das Bloggerportal für das Rezensionsexemplar. Mehr Informationen zum Titel finden sich auf der Seiteder Verlagsgruppe RandomHouse.