Henry Dunbar had it all planned out. After spending his life building a media empire, he plans on turning it all over to his three beloved daughters while he enjoys his retirement. He was going to turn the Dunbar Trust over to them but stay on as non-executive chairman and relish the plane, the properties, and the prestige of being Henry Dunbar.
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans . . .
Henry wakes up in a sanatorium, held there by nurses with the best of intentions and powerful narcotics, prescribed by his personal physician. He befriends an alcoholic comedian, Peter Walker, who is under contract to dry out before his next television show. Henry stays close to Peter because he knows things. He knows how to spit out his pills and dispose of them. And he knows how to escape. Henry is particularly interested in that last part, as his newfound clarity brings with it memories that the board meeting is only five days away, and unless he makes his way to New York in time, his scheming eldest daughters Abigail and Megan will take over the whole Trust.
Meanwhile, Florence, Henry's youngest daughter is disturbed to realize that her father is missing. While she never cared much for the family business, she has always loved her father very much and is worried about him, especially knowing how ruthless her sisters can be. With the help of Charlie Wilson, Henry's loyal attorney who Henry fired when he disagreed with his retirement plan, she is determined to find her father and ensure his safety. Which won't be easy, since her sisters are maneuvering to keep him away from that board meeting.
Edward St. Aubyn's modernized retelling of Shaksepeare's King Lear is breath-taking in its detail and emotion. Filled with complicated family relationships and conniving machinations, Dunbar tells the story of a family torn apart by greed and jealousy. With depth and clarity, St. Aubyn breathes life into the story and imbues each character and each action with a realism and a palpable tension. The Hogarth Shakespeare series has taken classics and elevated them to brilliant novels, and Dunbar is no exception.
I loved this novel. It is riveting and compelling and tragically beautiful. Anyone who feels like Shakespeare is too challenging in the original language should try Dunbar and its siblings. Anyone who loves the original plays will also find something to love here. King Lear re-imagined as a fight for a family media empire is genius, and it's written as perfectly as anything else I've read. Read Dunbar, and then check out the rest of the Hogarth series. That is certainly my plan, anyway.
Dunbar was provided by Hogarth through Peguin's Blogging for Books program, with many thanks.