Dun­bar

The Week - - Arts -

by Ed­ward St Aubyn Hog­a­rth 224pp £16.99 The Week Book­shop £14.99

Ed­ward St Aubyn’s new novel (the lat­est in a se­ries of Shake­speare retellings by well-known au­thors) trans­poses King Lear to mod­ern Bri­tain, said Kate Clanchy in The Guardian. St Aubyn’s Lear is the “bril­liantly creepy” Henry Dun­bar, a Ru­pert Mur­doch-like me­dia mogul whom we first en­counter in a care home hav­ing been ousted in a board­room coup by his two daugh­ters, Me­gan and Abi­gail. St Aubyn “wit­tily” up­dates even mi­nor char­ac­ters (Edgar is a “drug-tak­ing vicar with echoes of for­mer Co-op chief Paul Flow­ers”) and the scenes de­scrib­ing Dun­bar’s mad wan­der­ings in the Lake District are “ter­rific”. That said, St Aubyn sticks so closely to the orig­i­nal that his own in­ven­tive pow­ers don’t have “enough places to go”.

You can see why St Aubyn – au­thor of the ac­claimed Pa­trick Mel­rose nov­els – was drawn to this par­tic­u­lar play, said Laura Free­man in The Times. “Dys­func­tional dy­nas­ties are his spe­cial sub­ject.” Yet while Dun­bar dashes along and is “writ­ten with spirit”, it’s far from Lear: the char­ac­ters “tend to­wards car­toons” and the fi­nal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion “fiz­zles flat”.

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