Any author attempting to rework one of the classics must have full confidence in their own ability as a storyteller. Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson certainly has the pedigree to take on a modern interpretation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice. Jewish himself, Jacobson brings a telling insight to a tale of wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch whose battles with the women in his life eventually see him demanding his pound of flesh. Set in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, a world of unimaginable wealth, My Name Is Shylock does ample justice to the legacy of Shakespeare’s classic story.
Landskipping: Painters, Ploughmen And Places by Anna Pavord. Bloomsbury, priced £20 (ebook £12.95). Review by Catherine Small
Gardening journalist Anna Pavord was born in rural Wales and, even though she has lived in Dorset for more than 40 years, still feels at home surrounded by hills and wild countryside. Landskipping is a love song to the British countryside, both a travel guide and a history lesson. Pavord surveys the landscape through the eyes of painters, landowners and the people who worked the land, and explains how the countryside has been shaped and changed by agriculture and industry. She is at her best, however, when she’s recalling childhood holidays, or recounting her own rambles through the countryside. Apart from a rant about golf courses, this is beautifully written.
Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish. Blackfriars, £13.99 (ebook £7.99). Review by Natalie Bowen
This collection of poems, prose and diary entries record McNish’s motherhood, from the positive test to her daughter ‘Little One’ heading off to pre-school. It wavers between the confessional and observational; McNish vents frustration at corporations cashing in on new parents and expresses horror at abuse of pregnant women worldwide. She addresses birth and reassuring relatives and public disapproval and the disparity between aching for sleep, yet staying up to stare at a sleeping child’s face. Some of the poems are funny, some burbling; most are trying to encapsulate feelings simultaneously fleeting and all-encompassing.
Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of A Fist by Sunil Yapa. Little Brown, £14.99 (ebook £7.99). Review by Liz Ryan
It was one of the most effective street protests in history. In 1999, more than 40,000 campaigners besieged the World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference in Seattle, and successfully derailed a crucially important set of meetings. Writer Sunil Yapa wasn’t there, but his dad was a senior Sri Lankan bureaucrat who had worked for the World Bank, so he watched the unfolding events with interest. His novel explores the reasons for the protesters’ anger, as well as the shifting viewpoints of the many participants. Yapa’s lyrical prose brings the conflicted internal lives of a multitude of characters vividly to the page.