In brief: The Shepherd’s Hut; Radical Help; Dunbar – reviews

Tim Winton unpicks masculinity in the outback, the failing welfare state is taken to task, while King Lear is recast as a media magnate

The Shepherd’s Hut

Tim Winton
Picador, £14.99, pp256

Jaxie Clackton, 15, is on the run after the accidental death of his abusive, alcoholic father. He sets out on a journey across the harsh western Australia desert, reflecting on his father’s violence and the community’s wilful ignorance of it. En route, he stumbles across an old shepherd’s hut inhabited by an elderly Irish priest, Fintan MacGillis, who befriends Jaxie and whose kindness the boy slowly learns to trust. Characters on a quest – both physical and psychological – is familiar Winton territory, as is the evocative depiction of landscape. Exploring ideas of masculinity, exile and hope, it is a wise and compassionate novel, demonstrating Winton’s deep engagement with issues of moral complexity.

Radical Help

Hilary Cottam
Virago, £16.99, pp320

Social activist Cottam investigates what would be needed to deliver the original intention behind the welfare state, which she deems no longer fit for purpose. Combining case studies with social research and political analysis, she examines various aspects of life in contemporary Britain: families living below the poverty line; adolescents with mental health problems; individuals managing ill health amid a crumbling NHS; unemployment; the elderly facing loneliness. She asserts that human relationships, digital platforms and connectivity between local projects is where the potential solution lies.

Dunbar

Edward St Aubyn
Vintage, £8.99, pp224

Continuing the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which contemporary authors reimagine Shakespeare’s plays for a modern audience, St Aubyn tackles King Lear, recasting Lear as Henry Dunbar, head of a global media empire. Dunbar has divided his company between his two eldest daughters, having disinherited his beloved youngest daughter in a fit of pique. As the two older siblings incarcerate Dunbar in a Lake District sanatorium, drugging him so that he appears insane, Dunbar’s old friend, a once-famous alcoholic comedian, now Shakespeare’s fool, masterminds their escape. St Aubyn has a unique eye for comic detail in a reworking that has humour and pathos in abundance.

To order The Shepherd’s Hut for £12.74, Radical Help for £14.44, or Dunbar for £7.64, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

Contributor

Hannah Beckerman

The GuardianTramp

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