BLACK SWAN by Farrukh Dhondy


Age Range: 12 & up
Email this review


 By an Indian-born author, an elaborately convoluted novel with a framing story about an aspiring young actor, Rose, who's caring for mysterious old ``Mr. B,'' for whom she transcribes a document comprising the book's other narrative--the journal of Simon Forman, an Elizabethan physician embroiled in theatrical politics. Forman's intricately plotted revelations center on a black man known as ``Mr. W. H.'' or ``Lazarus,'' whose terrible adventures include feigned death and new identities--as do, it emerges, Mr. B's: He's a former political figure, now in hiding; like Lazarus, he's come from the Caribbean. Kit Marlowe, too, fakes his own murder and lives to love Lazarus; singly and together, they write the plays attributed to Shakespeare (here pictured as a drunkard of small talent), with Othello expressing Lazarus's grief at his betrayal by Marlowe. It's an intriguingly complicated construction, though Dhondy introduces more issues and ideas--in both eras--than could be comfortably accommodated in twice the space. The bard's plays as the creation of a cruelly tormented black man is an imaginative concept; but Forman's narrative, though carefully honed and incorporating phrases from the plays, is unconvincingly Elizabethan, even given the identity that Dhondy (in a last twist) gives its author. Still, a fast- moving, idea-packed read that will stretch young minds. It's outrageous that the publisher underestimates their intelligence enough to call Rose's mother ``Mom.'' (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-66076-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993