One of the problems I found was that I just didn't really care about the problems of these rich men worried about their spoilt daughters. And much of the humour seemed heavy handed. And there was a lot of theology.
The half way turning point occurs when Strulovich asks that his sixteen-year-old daughter's much older footballer husband undergoes circumcision as the price of his daughter's hand. A two page dissertation follows on the theology of circumcision: is it a mutilation or not? And circumcision becomes the proxy for the pound of flesh.
Possibly for good reasons, Shylock really doesn't like Christians. He is very apt to talk about 'Christians' in generalities. For example, Shylock claims that "they can't see a Jew without thinking they have to tell him a joke" (p 63), "they feel no embarrassment in proclaiming that the proper Jew is a wandering Jew" (p 64), that gentiles "haven't been able to draw their imaginations from us sexually for centuries" (p 69). Shylock also points out that Jesus was Jewish and claims: "Charity is a Jewish concept. So is mercy." And it is not just Shylock. Strulovich explains to his daughter why a gentile husband cannot be good enough for her: "your intelligence is five thousand years old, they were born yesterday. They can only think one thing at a time; you can think a dozen." (p 206) I found this repeated drawing of battle lines between Jews and Christians exhausting; no character seemed able to see beyond their tribe.
A difficult book. Perhaps I needed to know the play more intimately to appreciate the finer points. But in the end the characters seemed stereotypical and the endless philosophising just seemed endless.
March 2017; 277 pages
Some nice lines:
- "With water you did wash away the foul impurities of death." (p 54) has a slightly archaic sentence construction (the insertion of 'did') which makes you pay greater attention to the sentence and thus imparts a little extra emphasis.
- "On occasions she even cried over their incompatibility of whim." (p 73)
- "his friend, still bedwarmed, so to speak, with the perfumes of Plurabelle still on him" (p 73)
Vinegar Girl by Ann eTyler which rewrites The Taming of the Shrew: very funny
Nutshell by Ian McEwan rewrites Hamlet and is told from the perspective of a not quite yet born baby
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson rewrites A Winter's Tale and is mostly brilliant
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood is set in a prison and rewrites The Tempest: fabulous