New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Last year I read and enjoyed Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood's retelling of Shakespeare's Tempest. That novel was part of an interesting exercise by Hogarth Publishing to have other well-known author's rework some of Shakespeare's greatest plays. The most recent novel comes from Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl With the Pearl Earring.

In New Boy, Chevalier reimagines the tragedy of Othello in the form of a school yard romance during the 1970's. Osei has grown accustomed to being the outcast. His father is a diplomat who regularly moves the family from place to place, leaving Osei as the "new boy" in each new school. If being new isn't bad enough, Osei now has the distinction of being the only black kid at the all-white institution.

Osei quickly captures the attention of Dee, one of the most popular girls in the school. Dee is infatuated with Osei's unique good looks and his wise beyond his age personality. Naturally, the other boys in the school see Osei as a threat. One boy in particular sets a plan in motion to humiliate the new boy, and to ensure none of the other students accept him as one of their own.

While New Boy isn't the most riveting book I've read this year, it is still a rather interesting exercise in reinterpretation. By placing the story in a school during the 1970's, Chevalier uses Shakespeare's story to eloquently comment upon jealousy and prejudice. There are heavy implications lurking beneath the surface of this one, but schoolyard setting helps to keep an air of playfulness throughout the short book. The events that took place in Virginia this weekend brought an even more timely perspective to the story. America has an grim history of racism that we haven't been able to shake. The last year has seen numerous works of fiction comment upon that difficult history. I don't think New Boy is the most profound novel that touches on that subject, but it certainly adds to the conversation. The Hogarth Shakespeare Project continues to be one of the more interesting enterprises in publishing today. I'm happy to continue reading the books, and I look forward to Edward St. Aubyn's take on King Lear later this year.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.

(2017, 36)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 and is filed under ,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “New Boy by Tracy Chevalier”

  1. I always enjoy when there are deeper meanings and themes to what I'm reading, and I can clearly see that this is something displayed here in this novel too. It sounds intriguing... maybe not wonderful but definitely interesting to me.

    1. It is short enough that I think it is definitely worth a read.


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