Oh my – I really had no idea what I was getting into when I cracked this one. It was scheduled for discussion in one of my groups with the idea that it was a take-off of King Lear. Okay fine – I can do that. And I’d always wanted to try a St Aubyn and never had.
Okay – well, it’s about family dysfunction and greed and there are 3 sisters, 2 of whom are greedy and nasty but the third one is truly loving. So it’s a powerful tale and St Aubyn’s treatment, although more about what happens later, doesn’t diminish that – even with the use of contemporary situations and language.
by Edward St. Aubyn
2017 / 258 pages
read by Henry Goodman – 7h 16m
rating – 8.5 / very literary “thriller”
Henry Dunbar, an 80-year old Canadian billionaire and media mogul, is locked up in a “care home” in remote northern England where his only friend is Peter, an alcoholic comic. Having given controlling shares of the company he built to two of his daughters, Abigail and Megan, he’s on the verge of being completely ousted because those same two daughters are arrogantly, deviously and ruthlessly pursuing greater glory (total control of the company) while a third daughter, Florence, declined the stock in favor of following her heart to a ranch in Wyoming.
Dunbar and Peter plot and execute an escape, but then things get mixed up and Dunbar takes off on his own. When the daughters find out they take off to find him. Abby and Megan themselves are murderously insane with greed. They gather a couple accomplices. The women had wanted to place Dunbar in a really secure Belgian hospital, but that plan was foiled by the escape – it might be on again – or something more devious could be in the works.
Meanwhile, Florence also sets out to look for her father, but her motives are those of love and concern. She isn’t quite sure what she should do if she finds him, but she goes and gets the assistance of an old friend and attorney, Wilson.
Dunbar heads south through the hills toward London to reassert his power over the company. As he travels the back snow-covered roads and paths, he remembers his life – the many betrayals he’s guilty of. He’s not insane – he’s profoundly remorseful . He gets lost in a storm and the chase is on – it gets viscous. Dunbar manages to keep going despite all and becoming angry and determined not to be captured. He meets Simon, a lost minister, who becomes a friend.
The family dynamics are straight out of Shakespeare, but the chase is more from John Sanford.
I found the opening rather silly and didn’t know if I should bother. The lengthy internals from Abby and Megan got somewhat boring. Everything about Dunbar and Florence was good and Dunbar on his own in the storm was magnificent.
This is part of the Hogarth series of updated Shakespeare – they’re powerful stories from life via Shakespeare and in tune with our own times.
King Lear at Schmoop: https://www.playshakespeare.com/king-lear/synopsis