Sunday, October 18, 2009

Banquo's Son (Book Review)

Writing a sequel to one of Shakespeare’s tragedies is no mean feat, but to carry it out with the eloquence and passion displayed by T. K. Roxborogh in her recent novel Banquo’s Son demonstrates pure genius.

Banquo’s Son, the first in an upcoming trilogy, tells the story of Fleance, the son of Thane Banquo in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, ten years after the events of the play. It weaves an intricate pattern of politics, honour, corruption and love that skilfully echoes Macbeth and satisfies the Shakespearean fan who craves an answer to the play’s greatest unanswered question: Will the witches’ prophecy about Banquo be fulfilled?

Shakespeare may have left us little legacy regarding the character and personality of Fleance, but Ms. Roxborogh does not disappoint us. Courageous, honourable, intelligent and chivalrous, he takes his place among some of the playwright’s greatest protagonists. The reader is taken on an epic journey with Fleance as he comes to terms with his past and his heritage, and wrestles with his love for Rosie. Along the way we encounter Scottish nobles, political dissent, hidden agendas, true friendship, and the three witches, who once again attempt to corrupt the throne of Scotland through deception and the poisoning of the mind.

The style of the novel is crafted cleverly; the narrative is composed in modern day English, whereas the speech is Elizabethan in manner. Writes Ms. Roxborogh inside the front cover of Banquo’s Son, “I imagined myself sitting at Shakespeare’s desk penning this sequel.” This has visibly proven itself throughout the text, as the reader feels as though he is treading Fleance’s journey in the shoes of a 16th century English citizen.

Ms. Roxborogh draws on complex Shakespearean themes in her novel with expertise and dexterity, displaying tremendous talent and brilliance. Fleance’s love for Rosie is challenged by the need to revenge his father’s death, similar to the predicament that Shakespeare’s Hamlet finds himself in in the eponymous play. Also, both men struggle with their upper class status preventing them from marrying their lower class love interest. Banquo’s Son is a treasure trove of Shakespearean issues, knitted together in an adroit fashion, that have been deliberated for centuries.

Banquo’s Son is a fresh, innovative story that is a delight for modern readers yet does not sacrifice the multifarious nature and complexity of its Shakespearean prequel. Ms. Roxborogh has balanced canon with originality and forged an extraordinary masterpiece, worthy of its predecessor. William Shakespeare would be proud.

Banquo's Son is a novel written by Dunedin author Tania Roxborogh, the first in a trilogy, penned as a sequel to Shakespeare's Macbeth. It was published by Penguin Books in 2009. To visit the official blog, click here.

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