My Name is Shylock

My Name is Shylock My Name is Shylock by Howard Jacobson


Rating: 2 out of 5 magical coffee cups

magical coffeemagical coffee






“With an absent wife and a daughter going off the rails, wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch is in need someone to talk to. So when he meets Shylock at a cemetery in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, he invites him back to his house. It’s the beginning of a remarkable friendship.

Elsewhere in the Golden Triangle, the rich, manipulative Plurabelle (aka Anna Livia Plurabelle Cleopatra A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever Christine) is the face of her own TV series, existing in a bubble of plastic surgery and lavish parties. She shares prejudices and a barbed sense of humour with her loyal friend D’Anton, whose attempts to play Cupid involve Strulovitch’s daughter – and put a pound of flesh on the line.

Howard Jacobson’s version of The Merchant of Venice bends time to its own advantage as it asks what it means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being in the modern world.”


This is the second book that I have read in the Hogarth Shakespeare collection.  The first was The Gap of Time (my review here).  I really shouldn’t compare the two books because they are written by different authors but they are part of the same collection, so I feel like there is no getting around the comparison.  I have to say that I didn’t love this book as much as I did Gap of Time.

First, I feel like this book is linguistically above my pay grade.  I don’t think I’m smart enough.  I used my context clues to help me out as much as possible, but stopping to either look up a word or reread sections to better understand took me out of the story too often to really enjoy the story.

Second, I really don’t understand where Shylock came from.  Is he a ghost?  Is he immortal?  Is he a time lord?  Do I really need to understand this to fully understand the book?  I just don’t know.

Third, it was maybe a little over halfway into this book that I finally got into that flow where I was pretty sure I knew what was going on and felt comfortable grasping the storyline.  I almost put this book down so many times.  Friends kept telling me to just give up and move on but I hate doing that with books.  I always want to give the book a chance, it might have an amazing end.

Lastly, there was a lot, and I mean a lot about Jewish life.  I am not Jewish and I do not know much about Jewish life.  I wonder if I were Jewish, would I have understood more of this book.

In the end, I would have to say that the story was ok, but just not for me. There was an interesting end to the story and I am glad that I finished. I really hope others give it a try and let me know how they felt.  I might lend this out to a friend of mine who is Jewish and see if she gets more out of the book.

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