9780525495451Dunbar is the latest addition to the Penguin Random House Hogarth Shakespeare Series. A retelling of King Lear, it is quite a gloomy little book, although, how could it not be. “Acclaimed” authors were asked to select a Shakespeare play upon which to base their own retelling. This one begins in a sanatorium in in Cumbria, England, near Manchester. Henry Dunbar, 80 year-old media mogul, was deposited here by his two oldest daughters, Abigail and Megan (Goneril and Regan). Comic relief is provided by Dunbar’s alcoholic comedian friend, Peter Walker, in the form of impressions of various celebrities and a lot of clever – silly sometimes- banter. It is a morality tale about what people who have dedicated their lives to the accumulation of wealth and power can expect when they’ve neglected a moral compass that would have tied them more closely, more sympathetically, to their fellow humans. The siblings, intending to take over the company after having elaborately staged their father’s incoherent demise, garnered the support of the apppropriate board members, and performed any number of other equally despicable business dealings that would secure their fortune. Being only cursorily familiar with King Lear, I don’t recognize how closely the book parallels the play, but even I recognized the most obvious nods. Aubyn’s writing is very smart, but the overall effect of this sad story is to make one want to take stock of one’s life before it’s too late. Before a lifetime of selfish choices leaves you old and alone.


Lake Country in the northwest of England is reportedly very beautiful, as one of the characters in the book observed. The photo below is of Ullswater, the second largest lake in England. It is located in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria. The photo is from royalhotelkirkbylonsdale.co.uk



When Florence reconnects with her father, their familial roles have reversed, as Florence is now the caregiver/parent and Dunbar is the patient/child. How fitting then, that the first food Dunbar consumes under this new arrangement is chicken soup, the universal food of comfort with its healing medicinal properties. I had just made 3 batches of chicken broth to freeze, so I used that delicious base for the recipe below. There’s nothing like chicken soup to pick up your spirits.

Chicken Soup

1 T olive oil
½ C onion, chopped
½ C celery, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
¾ C carrots, cut into ½” cubes
½ C orzo
2 C cubed cooked chicken
4 C chicken stock
1½ tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add celery and onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add bay leaf, carrots, orzo and cooked chicken and stock. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf, season to taste and serve with naan or slices of baguette.


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