Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Macbeth Jo NesboIn a town rife with corruption, it’s hard to know who is good and who is bad.  Or, at least that is the case in Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth, which seems to sit permanently in the grey.

The city, somewhere in Scotland in the 1970’s is grey, overhung by smoke and smog. The settings seem to be mainly grey, with a lot of the action taking place at night or in the evening.  And the characters are grey, so many walking a fine line between what is right and wrong, it’s no wonder some of them start to fall.

In a way, it’s perfect Nesbo territory and why I love his books – there is a darkness there that draws you in and, even with characters that tend to chose the moral right versus the legal one, I can’t help but want them to succeed. 

New Boy by 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.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

New Boy is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello (read more about the original plot here) and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. There are five books in the series, though I’ve only read one (Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood). I’m a bit of a fan of classics being re-told (when done right), how they take the story and give it that modern twist and make it feel like new. That was definitely the case here, where if I hadn’t been aware this was based on Othello I don’t think I would have been any the wiser because it stands up in its own right.

Set in 1970’s Washington D.C., New Boy takes place in the classroom and the playground with the cast being played by a group of rather hormonal 11 year olds. Othello is now Osei, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, new to school and the only black face in a sea of white students. He is immediately the subject of fear, speculation and, in the case of Dee (one of the most popular girls in school), love at first sight.

Her love starts to lead to acceptance from other pupils, threatening the delicate balance of playground hierarchies. Unhappy by this turn of events, “King” of the playground (Ian) schemes to bring Osei and Dee down and sets in motion an unfortunate and tragic chain of events which seem to lead to nothing but unhappy endings for everyone involved.

Tuesday intro: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, a retelling of Othello.  Here’s what it’s about…

31706251Arriving 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.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Here’s how it start…

Before School

Ice cream soda, cherry on top Tell me the name of your sweetheart!

Dee noticed him before anyone else. She was glad of that, held on to it. It made her feel special to have him to herself for a few seconds, before the world around them skipped a beat and did not recover for the rest of the day.

This is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series.  As I did well with the last book in the series (and only so far) – Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – I have high hopes for this but we’ll see.  What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

Note: text from proof copy

New Boy is released on 11th May, 2017: Pre-order on: Amazon UK / Amazon US

The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

For this months Play On! Challenge, I decided to read The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare.  The theme for the month was Renaissance Plays, including Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and I had planned on being more adventurous than Shakespeare.  I couldn’t seem to make a decision though, so went with the obvious choice but, hopefully, not one of his most obvious plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

image

 

Sir John Falstaff, a rather dodgy character, decides to seduce a number of wealthy women in Windsor and make his fortune. He writes them identical letters but doesn’t know the women are friends and discover his plan. They come up with a plan of their own to teach him a lesson.  At the same one of their husbands learns of Falstaff’s plan and tries to catch the two of them together. Meanwhile, the much younger Anne is being pursued by three men but loves another.  There is duel and Falstaff is involved in this too.

At least, I think that’s what happens. This is Shakespeare’s first play and I actually found it much more difficult to read than I thought it would be, especially as last year I read eight of his plays in as many weeks and thought I had gotten into the grove of reading them. Even my normal trick of reading out loud didn’t help me much.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a bawdy comedy with lots of jokes which were probably very funny at the time but went right over my head.  It is the only one of his plays to be set in middle class England and this was part of where I struggled at times. There lots of colloquialisms and references I didn’t understand so I found I spent more time looking things up on the Internet than reading.  

After much frustration, I ended up watching an RSC production…and felt much, much, better.  It all made sense and I found it quite funny.  I even managed to finish the play second time around.  Did I enjoy it? Not really but at least I understood what was going on! 

Emma