Wednesday 4 August 2021

New Boy

Finished August 4
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

This novel is part of a series of books of books from Hogarth Press to retell works by Shakespeare for a modern audience. Hogarth chose well-known authors to select a play of their choosing and retell it. Chevalier chose the play Othello for the project. 
Her setting is a public school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C in the 1970s. Osei, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat and his wife is at his fourth school in six years. It is a month before the end of term, and he is the only black boy at the school. He is in the last year before middle school, grade six. 
There are two teachers for that grade, a younger woman, Miss Lode, and an older man, Mr. Brabant. Their attitudes around race play a part in the story as well.
Because I knew this was an Othello retelling, I knew the direction the story was going to go, and I was sick at the way one boy, Ian, was setting Osei up to make judgements that weren't based in reality. Plus knowing how kids are at that age makes the story work too. 
This story is very well done, with the groups that end up being created at school, the racial issues of the time, and the way young love works at that age with its uncertainty and newness. I went to school during this time as well, although in Canada, and can definitely relate to the way this played out. I hung about at recess the same way these kids do, jumping rope, playing casual team games, and sitting around in groups. I was often the "new girl" although not in the same way Osei was, with the differences and expectations he faced. However I was aware of this kind of thing happening with other children, and knew this prejudice existed. A gut-wrenching tale of manipulation and prejudice well told. This was a book I had planning to do with my book club last year, and am disappointed now that we didn't get to it. I think it has a lot of potential for discussion. 


  1. This sounds intriguing, my son has just read the Complete Worjs of Shakespeare and this would be an interesting comparison for him. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. I haven't yet read the others in the series but several intrigue me, like Macbeth by Jo Nesbo. I hope your son finds it interesting.