Thursday, October 15, 2009

Response to Lisa Scott's review of Banquo's Son (NZ Book Month)

This review is a response to a review written by Lisa Scott on the novel Banquo's Son, as part of New Zealand Book Month 2009. To read Lisa Scott's review of Banquo's Son, click here:

Ever wondered what happened to Fleance at the end of Macbeth? Yes - I did. And so, probably, did millions of readers of Shakespeare since the play was first published several centuries ago. This enormous audience, it would seem, does not include book reviewer Lisa Scott.

It appears that Ms. Scott isn't really very well read in Shakespeare - either that, or she skim-read Macbeth, a true literary crime for any of his plays. Fleance's appearance in the play may be small, but his significance cannot be shoved under the carpet. The three witches, who corrupted Macbeth into tyranny, foretold that Banquo (cousin to Macbeth) would not be a king, but that he would father kings, presenting him and his son as a threat to Macbeth's reign. The biggest question that is left hanging at the end of the play is thus: What becomes of Fleance, and will he one day be king? After all, if he is intricately linked to the throne, he is far more of a plot shaper than one would expect for a minor character. Macbeth took pains to arrange the assassination of Banquo and Fleance in order to secure his hold on Scotland. Fleance didn't simply escape because Shakespeare hated child abuse. Macbeth could not escape the witches' predictions, and try as she might, neither can Ms. Scott.

The true spirit of the story of Macbeth is preserved in Banquo's Son. Macbeth deals with the throne of Scotland, greed and power, honour and trust, loyalty and corruption. Ms. Roxborogh deals us an identical hand with a fresh, original story that is faithful to its predecessor. This is far more deserving of praise than criticism. I would like to see Ms. Scott tackle such a daunting challenge and match the masterpiece that is Banquo's Son, before throwing around harsh and poor judgement.

It is interesting to note that Ms. Scott peppers her review with scathing remarks about the theme of love in Banquo's Son, when it bears striking similarities to Hamlet, which is widely considered Shakespeare's greatest work - again, a lack of Shakespearean education on her part, I would presume. The relationship between Fleance and Rosie is besieged by a myriad of problems that mirrors Hamlet and Ophelia in Hamlet; Ms. Scott refers to this as it appears in Banquo's Son as 'the rollercoaster ride'. Both Fleance and Hamlet neglect their love interest for the need to revenge the death of their fathers, both whom appear to their sons as ghosts. Fleance is plagued with the issue of nobility and marriage (he being of royal blood, she being a peasant girl), and Ophelia is warned by her father to cease her relationship with the Hamlet as, being the future king, he cannot marry a girl of such low status as her. Love versus honour and love versus class - these are not half baked ideas one reads on the jacket of a Mills and Boon novel, but complex, contemplative themes that flow from the mind of the great playwright himself. On the back cover of Banquo's Son, Ms. Roxborogh writes 'Everything in life comes with a price'. This is a universal statement that rings true throughout Shakespeare's plays, and Ms. Roxborogh has done tremendous justice to it in her novel.

The New Zealand Book Month website states '[Lisa Scott's] wit and smart observations will be a treat for us as we celebrate the fourth NZ Book Month', and so far, this claim has proven to be false. I have observed no wit from Ms. Scott, nothing smart in the way of observations, and the only treat I've received is the story enclosed in the pages of the beautiful, shiny, black book in my hand that Ms. Roxborogh has gifted the world with. New Zealand should be proud to have her as an author. I can't wait for Bloodlines.

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. The second book in the trilogy, Bloodlines, is due to be published in 2010.

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