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Dunbar: William Shakespeare's King Lear Retold: A Novel

(Hogarth Shakespeare)

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  2,023 ratings  ·  485 reviews
A reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most well-read tragedies, by the contemporary, critically acclaimed author of domestic drama

Henry Dunbar, the once all-powerful head of a global media corporation, is not having a good day. In his dotage he hands over care of the corporation to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan, but as relations sour he starts to doubt the
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Hogarth Press
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Doug I'd strongly suggesting reading the Shakespeare original (King Lear) in order to get the most out of it, but each individual book in the Hogarth…moreI'd strongly suggesting reading the Shakespeare original (King Lear) in order to get the most out of it, but each individual book in the Hogarth series - like the originals - are separate stories. (less)
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Sarah Jessica Parker
From the Hogarth Shakespeare series. A wonderful read by Edward St. Aubyn!
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read King Lear when I studied it at school, it is my favourite Shakespeare play despite its deep darkness. It is an epic tale and tragedy, a traumatic, troubling, and gruesome story of a man more sinned against than sinning. Edward St. Aubyn has a monumental task in writing a contemporary reinterpretation that can match how I feel about the original and its emotional place in my heart. The truth is he cannot do that, but he has captured distinct elements from the original and weaved a ...more
Amalia Gavea
‘’I must tell my story...Oh God, let me not go mad! ‘’

I won’t lie. I am a sworn Shakespeare purist and there is nothing that can alter my mind. My opinion on the Hogarth Shakespeare series is somehow divided. I adored ‘’Vinegar Girl’’ and I look forward to Nesbo’s ‘’Macbeth’’, while ‘’Hag-Seed’’ will find a place in my wintry reads. ‘’King Lear’’ is one of those plays that have haunted me ever since I read it, some 15-odd years ago. I haven’t had the chance to attend a live performance yet,
Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”In the beginning was the Thought, and the Thought was with Dunbar, and Dunbar thought car and behold there was a car, and he saw that it was good.”

Henry Dunbar has escaped.

Not an easy thing to escape from a mentally ill facility, otherwise known as the nuthouse, the funny farm, the rubber room, and the booby hatch. It isn’t exactly what Henry had in mind for his retirement. He is tired, no doubt about that, but he isn’t crazy.

Well, not too crazy, just a spell of being mad, furious really,
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the Hogarth Press series of Shakespeare modern adaptations and, in this novel, we have Edward St Aubyn (best known for the Patrick Melrose novels) re-imagining “King Lear.” Now, I must admit that St Aubyn is one of my favourite authors and so I am probably more inclined to enjoy this than those readers who are looking at it from the point of view of the original and how it has been portrayed. St Aubyn has to be in my top ten favourite authors and I never open a new novel by him ...more
An underwhelming King Lear adaptation. Didn’t Jane Smiley already give us a less caustic version of this daughters-fighting-over-the-family-business scenario (A Thousand Acres)? St. Aubyn’s Lear stand-in is Henry Dunbar, an 80-year-old who peddled hate as a North American media mogul and whose two dastardly daughters have committed him to a sanatorium in the north of England. Here Dunbar communes with Peter Walker, the alcoholic comedian in the next room (the Fool figure) and spits out all his ...more
Roger Brunyate
What's the Point?

By what criteria are we to judge the novels in the Hogarth Shakespeare Series? This is the sixth to be published, and the question only gets more puzzling with each one. Famous authors are asked to write fiction based on a Shakespeare play. It would not be fair to call them straight retellings, as almost all the writers have felt free to go off in their own directions. Think of them rather as riffs on a theme. But for what purpose: to parallel the Shakespeare original, or to be
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-books
This is the sixth book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series that I have read. It is a retelling of King Lear.

It is many years since I read King Lear and it never was one of my favourites out of Shakespeare's plays. However Edward St Aubyn does a good job of making it into a very readable book. Really he takes the bare bones of the original and builds his own story but there are enough similarities in the action and in the characters to see where his ideas came from.

One unexpected delight was the
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel of righteous indignation, cruel betrayal and twisted family dynamics all rendered with clever, precise writing.

This is the first of the Hogarth series I’ve read (if you discount Nutshell which was not ‘official’) and I thought it was splendidly done. Despite having studied many of Shakespeare’s plays, King Lear was never on the curriculum so I went into this telling with a fresh perspective knowing only the basics and was impressed with St. Aubyn’s adaptation--it felt very modern and
Joseph Spuckler
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Dunbar is a modern retelling of Shakespear's King Lear. It's been quite a long time since I read Lear as an undergraduate and I wondered how much of what I remembered would affect what I read. To a casual reader, it is easy to see how Lear makes the skeleton that the book is built on. Dunbar ruler of an empire divides his corporation between his daughters to avoid taxes and in the process, the daughter's plot against him with the help of Dr. Bob. Dunbar finds himself medicated and trapped in a ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Hogarth Shakespeare series of novels (6 now published and 2 more pending) are re-imaginings, re-positionings, rewrites, adaptations, inspired by, based on, the plays of William Shakespeare – call them what you will, are merely the latest addition to a centuries old tradition of translating, editing, changing, adapting and producing versions (in the loosest sense) of Shakespeare’s works. In some cases these have been laudable, inspired and in others – merely futile savagings, maulings and ...more
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book worked better for me when I stopped comparing it to King Lear.
The author has taken certain aspects of the original play and brought them to the modern day but left a lot behind.

I thought the characters were interesting although not deeply explored and the story took a bit of a backseat to the thoughts and feelings swarming the pages - mostly of regret and anger. The main setting in the Lake District in England made for an excellent bleak and austere atmosphere that really brought the
Roman Clodia
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was this the triumph of self-knowledge: to suffer more lucidly?

Apart from a misstep with Othello, the Hogarth Shakespeare series of modern re-engagements with the plays has been excellent to date, and this is no different. It's both faithful and yet iconoclastic, and while purists may hate it, St Aubyn has made some bold and audacious moves to re-imagine a modern Lear as a Canadian media mogul, incarcerated in a care home by his wicked daughters and making a bid for freedom with Peter Walker, an
Doug H - On Hiatus
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: advance-copy
Purely my initial reaction:

Loved/hated it. Mostly admired it from a cool distance. Best of the new fall releases I've yet read, at any rate. Smart as hell, possibly too smart. Definitely much smarter than me. Currently googling "Dunbar Numbers" and wondering if I'm insane. My only consolation is the thought that the actually insane never wonder if they're insane...

More rational review to follow at a later date. (So he says to himself.)
Dannii Elle
This is the most recent of the Hogarth Shakespeare series instalments, which rework one of the bard's infamous plays.

Dunbar is the reborn story of King Lear. The central character is, as in the original, also the title of the piece. Henry Dunbar resides in a nursing home with only the jovial yet nonsensical Peter for companionship. His enterprise and fortunes have made their way to his two greedy daughter's outstretched hands and he is seemingly unable to stop it, in his current predicament. He
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an extraordinarily written book.

Each of the main characters carries the component for exhibiting one (or more) of the Seven Deadly Sins


Henry Dunbar, one of the worlds most powerful, influential leaders of a highly successful global media company finds himself mentally slipping away and doing oddball things that bears question to his capability to continue to run his company.
A fall, while at Davos, landed Henry in the hospital for several weeks and
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is the fifth of the Hogarth Shakespeare series that I have read. They have been a really mixed bag and I am not sure that I understand what the publishers are seeking to achieve with these re-tellings.

For completeness, the other four I have read are, in order of me reading them:

1. Howard Jacobson’s Shylock Is My Name (The Merchant of Venice) - set where I grew up and very funny. I enjoyed this one.
2. Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) - I found this dull with the only
Briar's Reviews
I love Shakespeare - anyone who knows me well can tell you that - so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. But, sadly, it was under whelming and quite the disappointment. Perhaps I put to much pressure on this book before reading it?

I haven't read King Lear yet, but I have been meaning to. I made sure to read over the synopsis and read some of the more "famous" pieces from the story online to get a better feel for it before I picked up this book. I wanted to understand the source
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having, ultimately, been blown away by the Melrose novels I was keen to read more books by Edward St. Aubyn and so picked up Dunbar (2017) which is a reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear. I'm not very familiar with King Lear so that aspect was wasted on me. Despite this, I was very impressed. Edward St. Aubyn is a wonderful writer and this tale of an ageing and declining patriarch is marvellous.

Edward St. Aubyn's Lear is Henry Dunbar, the head of a global media empire, and who appears to be
Dunbar is the sixth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, but it was actually my first. (No, I haven't read Hag-Seed.) So it wasn't a desire to keep up with the Hogarth series that drove me to click 'request' on this title - I was drawn to it because for whatever reason I just really, really like King Lear.

The main question on my mind as I was reading was: what exactly is the purpose of a retelling? I don't think there's ever going to be a definitive consensus on this subject, as I'm sure
Sid Nuncius
I thought Dunbar was excellent. I approached it with a little trepidation because a modern re-imagining of the King Lear story could have been worthy or turgid or forbidding or just plain terrible. In fact I found it gripping, witty, touching and very readable.

Henry Dunbar, the Lear character, is a billionaire media mogul and the machinations of the characters are in the business and financial worlds which, given the events of the last couple of decades, works extremely well. In the characters
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dunbar, like most of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, fails for several reasons. Most particularly, it fails because it entirely lacks a moral component, and—relatedly—any sense of universality. Shakespeare's Lear is a King, of course, so hardly an Everyman, but the actors who play him have the opportunity to invest him with the most human of fears: "O, let me not be mad". Dunbar says this too, but St Aubyn doesn't give him the chance to be an Everyman; instead he's an aggressive and deeply ...more
Alex Cantone
Edward St. Aubyn turns his elegant acerbic wit to Shakespeare, re-imaging “King Lear” in the form of Canadian-born mogul Henry Dunbar, who in a fit of pique left his elder two daughters, Abigail and Megan, to run his global media empire, retaining the nominal role of non-executive chairman, firing his faithful legal counsel, Wilson. His youngest daughter Florence (by his second wife), one-time lover of Wilson’s son Chris, had a distaste for acquisitions and hostile takeovers, and was ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
A thoroughly enjoyable Lear for the 20th century. Dunbar is not a king but a Canadian media mogul whose daughters, Megan and Abigail, are manoeuvring themselves into position to take over his empire. They have had him committed to a care home in the Lake District where he is losing his mind due to the cocktail of drugs he is being drip fed. St Aubyn does a tremendous job of depicting Dunbar's descent into madness as he becomes lost in the wilderness of the fells.

All the things he had ever felt
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My sincere thanks to both Goodreads Giveaways and the Hogarth Press for the ARC of the book in exchange for this honest review.

A bit of a quandary with this, only the second of the current Hogarth Shakespeare adaptations I've now read (the other being Winterson's take on The Winter's Tale, which although similarly muddled, I rather enjoyed). I adore St. Aubyn and have read his entire canon, but this seems neither one of his better efforts, nor does it really succeed as a retelling of Lear (which
Amanda Brookfield
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I heard that various top writers had been asked to tackle the big Shakespeare plays and turn them into prose fiction I really wasn't interested. I mean, quite apart from the small detail of Shakespeare being a genius, he wrote for the theatre; it's called drama, and with good reason. But then someone said Edward St. Aubyn had made a very good fist of 'King Lear', which triggered the happy memory of once, a million years ago, sitting round a small table with Edward himself studying - of all ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Hogarth could not have made a better choice than Edward St. Aubyn to update King Lear for their Shakespeare today series. In his five-volume expose of his own wildly dysfunctional family, he has proven he can skewer those nearest and dearest, and so he does so with this, probably the most definitive example of people who shouldn't even know each other let alone constitute a family.

In this version, Dunbar is a Ruppert Murdoch-like kingpin of media, (but since he is meant to be a sympathetic



one of my favourite playyyyyyyysssssssss

i need dis
On the edge.

At last, Edward St Aubyn joins the Hogarth pantheon with Dunbar, his much anticipated take on King Lear. For me, the success of the Hogarth Shakespeare series stands or falls on whether these modern interpretations hold up as novels in their own right. In my view, this one does. But only just.

80-year old Henry Dunbar is a Murdoch-like media baron whose multi-billion dollar organisation is under threat of takeover from within and without. His two older daughters, the vile Megan and
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edward St. Aubyn’s Dunbar features an aging king of an international media empire, his two faithless older daughters from his failed first marriage, his faithful yet rejected youngest daughter from his second marriage, his precarious mental state, his oldest daughters’ attempts to wrest control of his media empire from him, and his attempts to rescue his empire and resuscitate his relationship with his youngest daughter. Whew: sounds a lot like King Lear, right? True to his brief, St. Aubyn ...more
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Edward St Aubyn was born in London in 1960. He was educated at Westminster school and Keble college, Oxford University. He is the author of six novels, the most recent of which, ‘Mother’s Milk’, was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, won the 2007 Prix Femina Etranger and won the 2007 South Bank Show award on literature.

His first novel, ‘Never Mind’ (1992) won the Betty Trask award. This

Other books in the series

Hogarth Shakespeare (8 books)
  • The Gap of Time
  • Shylock Is My Name
  • Vinegar Girl
  • Hag-Seed
  • New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare)
  • Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare)
  • Hamlet Retelling (Hogarth Shakespeare, #8)
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“Was this the triumph of self-knowledge: to suffer more lucidly?” 3 likes
“I'll let you in on a little secret, Garry: everything is history. By the time you notice it, it's already happened. That famous imposter, "the present," disappears in the cognitive gap. Mind the gap!” 2 likes
More quotes…