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I opted to listen to this book because I had really enjoyed the previous title in the 'Shakespeare Reimagined' series,which forms part of the Shakespeare 400 commemorations.
This particular book is a retelling of The Merchant of Venice, set in the modern-day 'Golden Triangle' area of Cheshire.
Two Jewish men, Shylock and Simon Strulovitch (a rich philanthropist and art collector) meet in a cemetery and strike up a friendship. Both have troublesome daughters and are mourning their wives for different reasons- Shylock's has died and Strulovitch's is bed-ridden and uncommunicative through illness.
Various situations, some comic, some serious, lead the men to examine the nature of fatherhood, what it means to be Jewish and how/when to be merciful. The author uses Shakespeare's device of a 'pound of flesh' in an unexpected way, and creates a cast of minor characters who are colourful, engaging and more likeable than either of the main protagonists.The story starts quite slowly and is not helped by the style of narration; but it builds up to a well-plotted and absorbing novel, full of humour and insights into the Jewish world and psyche. The second half is definitely better than the first.
I really could not warm to the narrator. His style really irritated me at times - he sounded sarcastic, even bored at some points. It was a shame as I really love Howard Jacobsen's writing.
I do not know much about The Merchant of Venice so I am unsure as to whether this version is close to the original or not. But it is definitely worth listening to, just as a stand-alone piece of literature.