The Hogarth Shakespeare project sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today. The series launched in October 2015 and will have 8 books total – with the last being published in 2021. Have you read any of the books in the series?
The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson
In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.
The reviews on Goodreads are overall positive, with most comments similar to liking how the author “messes with race, sexuality, positions of power and influence to create a unique dynamic that toys with the times much like Shakespeare did in his day.”
Published October 6, 2015. [Buy The Gap of Time @ Amazon]
Shylock Is My Name, Howard Jacobson
In this interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. He is a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge. But Strulovich struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice’s “betrayal” of her family and heritage as she is carried away by the excitement of Manchester high society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute on the field.
There are mixed reviews of this one on Goodreads. It’s seen as very literary, oftentimes too heavy handed – “The meaning was deep, the prose very literary and at times it was very heavy. However there were also times that made me smile and there were some very beautiful passages.“ One comment mentioned that the audiobook was the way to go. That’s the route I plan to follow.
Published February 9th 2016. [Buy Shylock is My Name @ Amazon]
Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler
Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. Her father, Dr. Battista, has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.
When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kirsten Potter – note it’s in the “humor” section on Audible, so that ought to tell you the direction this is going. I enjoyed the story and listening to the audiobook which was superbly narrated. The book though is a bit stilted at times, and stretched the imagination a bit as the “love story” was a bit unbelievable. But overall I would definitely recommend it. And don’t skip the epilogue – very cute “after-story”.
Published June 21, 2016. [Buy Vinegar Girl @ Amazon]
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Eventually, he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.
This is my favorite book of The Hogarth Series so far because, although it does goes overboard on the details sometimes, it still feels like an authentic story in it’s own right. The complexities of the characters is what really sealed the deal for me though.
Published October, 2016. [Buy Hag-Seed @ Amazon]
New Boy, Tracy Chevalier
Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
Othello is not a favorite of mine – simply because I don’t like tragedies – plus, I’m also am not a huge fan of books that revolve around kids – it’s just not my thing. So I was predisposed to not like New Boy – and imagine my surprise to find out just how much I did get into it. Chevalier’s idea of rewriting Othello with a cast of kids turned out to be a genius move. I think it worked out so well because it was short and all took place in one day, plus – yeah, kids can be brutal! This book worked for me – despite having some issues with the grown-up actions of the young ‘uns. Still, I would recommend it.
Published May 11, 2017. [Buy New Boy @ Amazon]
Dunbar, Edward St. Aubyn
Henry Dunbar, the once all-powerful head of a global corporation, is not having a good day. In his dotage he handed over care of the family firm to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan. But relations quickly soured, leaving him doubting the wisdom of past decisions. Now imprisoned in a care home in the Lake District with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?
This book is based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Reviews on Goodreads are mixed. Some reviewers found it simply confusing – “there are too many characters, with all too forgettable names.” But “With an economy of words, yet prose that felt dense and portentous, he is able to conjure moments of brilliance that left this reader dazed.“
Published October 24, 2017. [Buy Dunbar @ Amazon]
Macbeth, Jo Nesbø
He’s the best cop they’ve got. When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess. He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past. He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach. But a man like him won’t get to the top. Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his. Unless he kills for it.
I’m only about halfway into this, and I have to tell you that while this started out a little slowly, it picked up steam after a few chapters. It got interesting, but it’s also plagued by the same thing as some of the other books in the Hogarth Series that I’ve read – in order to closely follow the plot of Shakespeare’s plays, some of the twists and events in seem very contrived or arrive very abruptly in the story. However – like most of Nesbo’s books I’ve read, this characters and action are intense!
Published April 15, 2018. [Buy Macbeth @ Amazon]
Gillian Flynn’s retelling of Hamlet is coming in 2021!
Have you read any of the books in this series? What did you think of them?