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Edward St Aubyn: Dunbar

Author: Edward St Aubyn

Title: Dunbar

Press: Vintage (PRH)

Date of Publication: 2017

Date of Purchase: December 2018

RRP: £8.99

Price of Purchase: This was a lovely thoughtful gift from my class secret santa

Reading Time:  4 days

Rating: 2

It’s been a while since I read a ‘bad’ book but I think this might qualify. Shakespeare adaptations aren’t generally my bag, I struggled through Hagseed by Margaret Atwood last year, but Dunbar really did smack of being authentically, really, regrettably … well … bad.

I’m not familiar with the plot of King Lear which I assume didn’t help but the action was so sporadically paced as to make this almost unintelligible. There were too many characters with important roles for a book of 211 pages and St Aubyn’s attempts to characterise them each individually was pretty overwhelming. Eight characters cannot possibly have eight satisfying, distinct character arcs developed in that kind of space.

My main issue with this was the gratuitous borderline pornographic sections. The two evil sisters are sexual sadists, in itself an unnecessary plotline, and then their obscure fetishes, which are described in some detail, sat really uncomfortably with the rest of the story.

Maybe the problem was that not enough license was taken with the plot? It maintained a kind of Shakespearian mania about it but set in a book of this length it completely lost the plot. Not for me I’m afraid, glad to be putting this particular novel to one side in the knowledge I’ll never read it again. (Also maybe this is just what I get for breaking my streak of only reading books by women).

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