I'm giving Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson two stars, but I want to be clear: I don't think this is a bad book. It's just absolutely not for me. I found it amazingly boring. Here's a plot summary: nothing happens. Okay, that's not strictly true, but this book is very slow. Basically, a Jewish man is a) obsessed with how much he thinks everyone hates his race and b) profoundly against practicing his religion. But his daughter has to marry Jewish to keep the line going. The end. The last few pages were slightly redeeming, but not enough to affect my rating. I didn’t care about the plot. Or the characters. Or the writing style, which gets the job done but doesn’t make me want to run to the bookstore to find more by this author.
When I read The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, the first installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, I didn't think the summary of the source material at the beginning was necessary. But having read this adaptation, I've changed my mind. I've never read The Merchant of Venice, but while reading this book I was definitely curious to know how much was original and how much it drew from the play. I skimmed the Wikipedia entry for the play afterward, andShylock Is My Name is a much less literal adaptation than The Gap of Time. And for that reason, and that reason only, this book is two stars instead of one.
The one thing going for the book is its physical appearance. I'm loving how they're doing this series, with a smaller than average book size and covers that clash nicely. I’m not sure how many of these books I’ll come to own, given that the first two have been disappointments, but I do want to read the adaptations of Hamlet(because of Gillian Flynn) and Othello (because it’s my favorite). So if you love The Merchant of Venice or Shakespeare or Howard Jacobson or mind-numbing boredom (just kidding) (kind of), take this review with a shaker of salt. I think there’s an audience for it, but that group doesn’t include me.
2 out of 5 stars
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.