This is my third novel in as many years, and portrays a modern-day equivalent of Shakespeare’s protagonist. Mr. Koenig has his good and bad points, as do his three daughters, Gloria, Renata and Corinna (yes, the parallels with Goneril, Regan and Cordelia are intended). The three sisters, all mature, fairly reasonable women, are doing their best to cope with the pressures of modern life. Each one attempts in her own way to balance the multiple roles of wife, mother, daughter, sister, and employee. Although the relations between the three are not without their problems, each one does what she can to help taking care of their father in his old age.
My book aims to show the women in a more realistic light than Shakespeare has done in his play. His portrayal of Lear’s two older daughters as malevolent harpies and the youngest as a misunderstood angel goes against the feminist grain. While not everything in Shakespeare’s play has a parallel in the book, Mr. Koenig’s Filipina carer, Flora, could well be reminiscent of Lear’s Fool. Gloria, the eldest daughter, is divorced but thinks she has found love at last. Renata, burdened with an uncooperative husband, is drowning in household chores and turns to drink for consolation. And Corinna, the youngest, who feels that her life is a failure, is struggling to retain her equilibrium.
Mr. Koenig’s secret, which comes out in the course of the book and colors the relations within the family, casts a shadow over his departure from this world. Evidence emerges of financial aid that he has been giving to a woman who may have once been his mistress, causing tension within the family and calling into question what the sisters had presumed to be their idyllic family life. The book traces the course of Mr. Koenig’s decline and eventual death, the efforts his daughters make on his behalf, and the toll this takes on each one of them.
The dilemma confronting Levi Koenig’s daughters is not an unusual one. Should their father be placed in sheltered accommodation, encouraged to live with one or another of his ‘girls,’ or enabled to stay in his own home with a live-in carer? Their compromise solution demands considerable cooperation between the three, and this sometimes involves more than they bargained for.
Levi Koenig’s daughters are neither harpies nor angels, but human beings, with human quirks and foibles. With the best of intentions, they set out to find a solution to the problem of their elderly father’s increasing frailty. But as everyone knows, the road to hell is paved with…good intentions.
In addition, each sister has her own issues to contend with, whether it’s an inadequate husband, a drinking problem, demanding children, money troubles, an unfulfilling job, or a failed love affair. Each sister is an individual in her own right, with wishes, motives and plans of her own. And each one makes her own contribution to the unfolding drama. Past antagonisms and childhood jealousies also come back to haunt the three women, further complicating the interaction between them.
As the story unfolds we get to know each of them more intimately, the daily minutiae of their lives, their thoughts and feelings, and the attitude of each one to herself, her nuclear family, her father, and her sisters. Each one of them is a person with a defined character and her own individual approach to the difficulties that beset her personal life and the extended family unit. Inevitably, their father makes his own inimical contribution to the course of events. Like the tentacles of an octopus, the ties that bind the family together also restrict their actions and determine the eventual consequences.
Levi Koenig, A Contemporary King Lear, joins my two other novels, The Balancing Game; A Child Between Two Worlds, A Society Approaching War, which was published in 2013, and Time Out of Joint; The Fate of a Family, which was published in 2014. All three are available as ebooks and paperbacks from Amazon.com