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”.