Tuesday, 3 October 2017

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier



Goodreads Blurb

"From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes the fifth installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, a modern retelling of Othello set in a suburban schoolyard

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."

I love Tracy Chevalier's writing. I don't just mean Girl with a Pearl, but also books like At The Edge of The Orchard. She is especially talented at telling big stories with so few words. I love that.

Here, she does it again. I picked this up, not because of the Shakespeare connection - that whole idea of rewriting Shakespeare into current-day novels has more appeal (I think) to the authors and publishers who are interested in selling more copies (and I don't begrudge them that) than it does to the fiction readers. We're not all that concerned about how closely the storylines follow; we miss most of the analogies, and to be honest, we don't really mind that we do. So whilst I appreciate and trust that in a literary sense, I have been Othello'ed, I read this more for the pure enjoyment of savouring the author's every word. And I did.

You can see the story in the blurb, but my comments are that I loved the characterization of Osei. I also thought the racism was nicely done - more shocking due to the casual normalcy with which it was written. I think that gave it an even greater impact.

My gripe is almost equivalent to my high praise for its brevity. Although I've mentioned already that I love the way Tracy Chevalier tells powerful tales in so few words, in this instance, I found myself rushing on through to get to the conclusion, and now I feel a re-read is in order, because I probably missed so much. I suppose, given the level of enjoyment the first time around, there's nothing wrong with that!

Loved this little book. And yes, you can read it, even if your Shakespeare - like mine - was limited to reading one play at school.

ISBN: 9780345809926

You may also enjoy The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

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