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New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) Hardcover – May 16, 2017
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Praise for New Boy:
“What Chevalier has done is recast the play to illuminate the peculiar trials of our era…a fascinating exercise… provides some wicked delight. She’s immensely inventive about it all.”
“Chevalier possesses a great talent for invoking a sense of time and place in her novels, and this one is no exception. From the flowered legs of bell-bottom jeans to the smack of double-dutch ropes on the playground, New Boy captures the spirit of not only the era, with its casual racism, but the essence of a ‘70s childhood as well. A masterful and powerful retelling of this classic story that takes the original to new places.”
—San Francisco Book Review
“The book succeeds in portraying a Shakespearean tragedy’s sense of growing unease, and culminates in an unnerving and haunting climax that will take a long time to shake.”
“This is an engrossing and ultimately convincing story of its own, with characters you’ll believe in and a tragic ending worthy of the Bard.”
“Chevalier manages to turn this story into a true tragedy…New Boy will appeal to adult Shakespeare lovers and to young adults who may only know Shakespeare because of a couple teenage lovers in Verona.”
—Raleigh News and Observer
“The youth of the characters is played naturalistically and honestly, yet still manages to elicit much the same pathos that Othello’s tragic path does. The depth of connection between the original work and this new one is astonishing; Chevalier builds parallels within parallels that are both unexpectedly creative and exquisitely apt… It is clean and clever and emotionally charged, filled with moments that reflect perfectly the source material while never straying from the truths of the new setting.”
—The Maine Edge
“Chevalier’s novel does an admirable job of prompting readers to look backwards, to Shakespeare’s original material, and forward, to the lessons that 1970s-era school children might still teach us about the state of race relations in the US today.”
“With breathtaking urgency, Chevalier brings Othello to a 1970s suburban elementary school outside Washington, D.C., where the playground is as rife with poisonous intrigue as any monarch’s court… Chevalier’s brilliantly concentrated and galvanizing improvisation thoroughly exposes the malignancy and tragedy of racism, sexism, jealousy, and fear.” —Booklist
“Chevalier smartly uses her narrative as an opportunity to spin a story commenting on racism in America.”—Publishers Weekly
“Othello as a Seventies schoolyard drama? Yes, it works marvellously. The emotions of emerging adolescence are a potent brew, with friendships, rivalries, budding sexuality, and the desire to fit in combining unflinchingly with the racism of the teachers (and some of the pupils). This is an evocative retelling of Shakespeare, and his characters’ interactions and motivations fit surprisingly well into the brutal world of childhood.” —Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat
"New Boy not only allows a better understanding of Othello the play, but also the continuing issues of racism in our society. Othello forces readers to consider how terrible it must have been for him to live among such racism in 16th-century Venice. Chevalier’s retelling brings it home and makes us question if our society today is really any better." —National Post
Praise for Tracy Chevalier:
"Evokes entire landscapes...a master of voices."
—New York Times Book Review
"Chevalier's signature talent lies in bringing alive the ordinary day-to-dayness of the past...lovingly evoked."
"Absorbing...[Chevalier] creates a world reminiscent of a Vermeer interior: suspended in a particular moment, it transcends its time and place."
—The New Yorker
"Chevalier's ringing prose is as radiantly efficient as well-tended silver."
About the Author
TRACY CHEVALIER is the New York Times bestselling author of eight previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into 39 languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.
Top customer reviews
(And, within the Hogarth Shakespeare modernization series, I think that Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed is more entertaining and illuminates the original rather than just updating to the present-day it in prose.)
That the whole story is compressed into one school day makes it even more difficult to credit sixth graders with the passions of Othello and Desdemona. The malice of a preteen Iago, herein named Ian, is easier to credit, as is the manipulability of his confederate (Roderigo turned Roger). Still, the dating and rating complex is easier to believe for high school students (in the 2001 movie “O,” filmed in Charleston, South Carolia, with Mekhi Phifer in the title role, Julie Stiles as “Desi,” and Josh Hartnett as Iago, renamed Hugo).
Author Tracy Chevalier was born in October 1962 in D.C. and went to school (high school at least) in Bethesda, Maryland, so seems to have drawn on her own school daze for a novel about sixth-graders in the last month of the 1973-74 school year in a Washington suburban school. Given her (dubious!) choice of putting the story into sixth grade, I think Chevalier crafted the adaptation well, finding a credible substitute for the scarf in the original, and making the reactions of fellow students, as well as teachers and principal, to de facto desegregation plausible. Racism in much more central to Chevalier’s version than to the original.
Though I don’t really believe it, I admire Chevalier’s cramming the story of passions, manipulations, perceived betrayals, and violence into the course of a few hours. I think that sixth graders could read the novel. I’m not sure I’d accuse it of being “written down” for young readers, though it definitely lacks the grandeur of Shakespeare’s language.
Othello is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and this book has been on my radar for some time. The original Othello is complex, a military success whose Achilles heel is his jealousy; his insecurities stem from his darker skin color and bouts with epilepsy. Here, there are few nuances (for the longest time, it seems like O has no flaws) and the racial tension becomes cliched and sometimes even pedantic. Take these lines: "Life is not easy for anyone.If anything, he has it too easy. He'll grow up and walk right into a good job, thanks to affirmative action. A good job that someone more qualified should have done." Or this: "Go back to Africa, my little brother...where being black is normal and white skin is made fun of."
Characters and plot lines are over-simplified and the 11 year olds just don't have that sense of verisimilitude; sometimes, their thoughts seem well beyond their years. It doesn't help that the action, which is spread over months in Othello, is here confined to a single day. Tracy Chevalier is a fine writer that could and should have done better I remain a fan of this Hogarth series and its ambitious vision of proving the relevance of Shakespeare to new generations of readers.