Hamnet

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Read 04/10/2020-09/10/2020

Rating 4 stars

Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet imagines the brief life of William Shakespeare’s only son, and the impact his death aged only 11 has on his family. The novel won the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Continue reading

Winter: a chat with Weezelle

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Read 07/12/2017-12/12/2017

Rating: 4 stars

When I read and commented on Weezelle’s review of Autumn, and mentioned that I had both Autumn and Winter next in line for reading, Weezelle suggested that we wrote a joint review of the second book in the sequence. So here we are.

We live on opposite sides of the globe (don’t you love the internet? Please, America, don’t end Net Neutrality), and had to negotiate an 11 hour time difference, as well as Weezelle moving house. Through the magic of Twitter DMs and cut & paste, we had a wonderful, wide ranging discussion. Continue reading

The Gap of Time

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Read 04/03/2017-05/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

I’ve never seen a performance of or read The Winter’s Tale, so I was glad of the overview Jeanette Winterson provides at the start of The Gap of Time. I could understand why Winterson, who was adopted and raised by strangers attempting to be her parents, would be fascinated by the story of a lost girl taken in and raised by a stranger, and why, given the unhappiness of her own upbringing, she would be fascinated by the story’s happy ending.

It surprised me, then, that Winterson’s cover version (her term) felt so brittle at first. There was a self-consciousness about it. This is only the second work of fiction by Winterson that I’ve read. It felt to me as though she was writing at a slight remove, as though curious herself as to what she might reveal as the story unfolded. Perhaps there was a reticence because this is a work of Shakespeare, after all. These aren’t Winterson’s own characters. And perhaps Winterson’s feeling that Shakespeare’s original is talismanic for her meant that her love for it was overshadowed by a sense of responsibility to reinterpret it well. Continue reading

Shylock Is My Name

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Read 24/04/2016-26/04/2016

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness challenge.

I haven’t read The Merchant of Venice. I suppose this might have put me at a disadvantage in reading Howard Jacobson’s retelling of the play.

I’ve also not read any Howard Jacobson before. When I opened the book, I didn’t know what his style would be. I ended up enjoying it, despite initial misgivings. It’s a cheeky chappy style, but with depth. He put me in mind of Michael Frayn. I enjoyed the way he peeled away the layers of the issues with which he concerned himself in the book. Continue reading