Sher­lock is My Name

The Sun (Malaysia) - - THE RIGHT READ -

Au­thor: Howard Ja­cob­son Pub­lisher: Hog­a­rth ISBN: 9780701188993

THIS is one of a se­ries of retellings of Wil­liam Shake­speare’s plays, in con­junc­tion with the 400th an­niver­sary of his death.

Based upon his leg­endary Mer­chant of Venice, the book’s plot fol­lows a Bri­tish Jew and art dealer named Si­mon Strulovich, in the throes of a mid-life cri­sis, who meets with the tit­u­lar Shy­lock in a cemetary, as the lat­ter is mourn­ing over the grave of his late wife, Leah.

The two strike up a friend­ship, united in their mu­tual frus­tra­tions over their daugh­ters.

Strulovich’s teenage Beatrice is dat­ing a fa­mous, non-Jew foot­baller and is liv­ing among Manch­ester high so­ci­ety, while Shy­lock’s free-spir­ited Jes­sica has com­pletely re­jected her Jewish up­bring­ing, and sold her mother’s ring in or­der to buy a mon­key.

Un­der Shy­lock’s in­flu­ence, Strulovich be­gins to feel re­sent­ment against the other peo­ple in his life who he feels have wronged him.

Th­ese in­clude a ri­val art dealer named D’An­ton, a flighty-yetam­bi­tious heiress named Plura­belle, even his daugh­ter’s foot­baller boyfriend Gratan.

This leads him to plot their down­falls, set­ting off cer­tain events that lead to that in­fa­mous mo­ment where ‘a pound of flesh’ is re­quested, al­though with un­ex­pected re­sults.

While I vaguely re­mem­ber Shake­speare’s play, the plot doesn’t di­rectly fol­low it.

In­stead, it weaves its own rich story of rage, re­venge, and re­flec­tions on the is­sues of re­li­gion and iden­tity.

There are some key dif­fer­ences from the play, but to re­veal any more would def­i­nitely be con­sid­ered spoil­ers.

The plot takes a while to get go­ing, as Ja­cob­son fo­cuses on build­ing the world and the char­ac­ters, espe­cially Shy­lock and Strulovich.

The slow burn is all worth it by the end, how­ever, as you find your­self in turn em­pathis­ing with char­ac­ters tra­di­tion­ally thought to be vil­lains, and see­ing the grey ar­eas in peo­ple nor­mally con­sid­ered he­roes.

The best thing about the book is the lan­guage.

Ja­cob­son has a knack for de­scrib­ing char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions us­ing beau­ti­ful analo­gies, and the book is a lot funnier than I thought it would be, more in line with a dark com­edy than a drama.

This is highly rec­om­mended for lovers of lan­guage and Shake­speare’s works. – Anansa Ja­cob

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