SHYLOCK’S DAUGHTER by Mirjam Pressler


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Age Range: 12 - 15
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In this turgid elaboration of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Pressler (Anne Frank: A Hidden Life, 2000, etc.) subordinates the story’s events both to a rich re-creation of the texture of life in the Venetian ghetto and to a series of overwrought reveries in which her unappealing cast members cast light on their various character flaws. Shylock is the Tragic Hero here, losing both loving wife and devoted housekeeper to consumption, his vain, shallow daughter Jessica to a gold-digging Christian husband, and, finally, his entire estate thanks to an irrational, revenge-driven insistence on collecting that pound of flesh from a Christian debtor. The author adds several new characters, notably Dalilah, a young orphan taken in to be Jessica’s companion/servant. After more than ten years of being the passive, dutiful one, Dalilah suddenly displays enough gumption at the end—after Shylock abandons her—skipping town rather than be forcibly baptized, to dress as a boy and set out for the Levant. This prompts translator Murdoch, in a long, analytical afterword, to argue that Dalilah’s the central character here; but it’s Pressler’s depiction of the spirit and practices of Venice’s Jewish community that emerges most vividly, and will stay with readers longest—at least those who can finish it. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8037-2667-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2001


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