10 Dec / The Gap of Time [Hogarth Shakespeare] by Jeanette Winterson [in Library Journal]
Jeanette Winterson inaugurates “The Hogarth Shakespeare” series – “a major international project [that] will see Shakespeare’s plays reimagined by some of today’s bestselling and most celebrated writers” – with a contemporary reinvention of The Winter’s Tale. In Winterson’s version, the setting moves between post-2008 market-crashed London and a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia.
The character metamorphoses include King Leontes as a megalomaniacal financier, Queen Hermione as a popular singer, and best friend King Polixenes as a designer of computer games. Lost Perdita retains her name, but here she’s a white British newborn adoringly raised and unconditionally loved by an African American father and son.
In an example of narrative enhancement, Winterson provides Leo and Xeno with an intense backstory of youthful obsession that better justifies Leo’s blinding jealousy. As Shakespeare’s play was meant to be performed, perhaps Winterson’s novel should only be read – too much goes wrong as narrated by Penelope Rawlins, Mark Bazeley, and Ben Onwukwe. Rawlins gives Perdita an inexplicable British accent, although she’s spent her entire life save for a few days in the United States. Numerous characters, especially Leo, are voiced by different narrators in various sections without continuity; the effect is jarringly, repeatedly disruptive.
Verdict: Separately, the narrators are surely worthy bards (richly, gravelly voiced Onwukwe is magnificent as Shep); alas, their director’s inability to create a coherent ensemble regrettably mars Winterson’s otherwise remarkable Tale.