For the record, I am a bigger Shakespeare fan than the average person, so perhaps Margaret Atwood’s upcoming book, Hag-Seed hits closer to my target than many. This is a clever little novel. Like most Hogarth Shakespeare books, it’s brief read and a modern retelling. Felix is unseated from his role as director of a theater company and seeks revenge. After going into hiding for years, he uses a prison “acting company” to stage a performance that will help him accomplish it.
This book is very self-aware- The Tempest within putting on a play of The Tempest. Atwood also weaves in Shakespearean references from other plays, especially Hamlet. One could read this book without any past encounter with Shakespeare, but it definitely helps to have a bit of a background. If you aren’t familiar with The Tempest, Atwood gives long, explanatory conversations about the characters and plot which can get a bit long and feel unnatural at times. Still, the main character is technically teaching the text to his “students” so a bit of this can be forgiven. Atwood also includes a synopsis of the original play in the back of the book, if one would need.
Familiarity with the theater in general also helps with enjoyment of this novel. As the main character, Felix, is a director/actor, much of his world-view is shaped from the perspective of the stage and it reads that way. Also, as with much of Atwood, she zooms in on prison themes (Alias Grace, Heart Goes Last).
The book would have been only “just-okay” with me without the play off of the idea of Miranda/Ariel throughout, which I won’t spoil because it is truly on-target, pitch-perfect Atwood at work.
Overall, a great read. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Published by Hogarth