I received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: October 11. 2016
Summary (from Goodreads): William Shakespeare’s The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.
Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.
If you are a fan of Shakespeare and his plays, Hag-Seed is one book that is not to be missed. Margaret Atwood has crafted an interesting and creative revisiting of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in this 4th book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. This book actually is a story within a story that has a familiar setting and cast of colourful characters.
The whole concept of this book is so unique and will really blow your mind. The main character in Hag-Seed, Felix, was an artistic director of a Shakespeare festival who winds up teaching inmates English through the use of Shakespeare’s plays. While Felix is seeking his own revenge, the original Shakespeare play about revenge, The Tempest, is being explored and examined by the inmates. It is so fantastic how Atwood has provided readers with so much detail about the original play and Shakespeare as well. It is like being a student in Atwood’s class, learning about the techniques and methods Shakespeare used in writing The Tempest.
Another aspect of this story that I found personally exciting was the setting for this story. While Atwood never mentions Stratford, Ontario, she does imply its proximity in some of her descriptions and the small town of Wilmot in which Felix moves to. Anyone familiar with this Canadian Shakespeare town will find a sense of nostalgia while reading. I could definitely picture the countryside and all of those theatregoers licking ice cream cones.
Also, the characters that Atwood has created for this retelling are absolutely wonderful and are definitely classic Atwood. There are so many interesting inmates with colourful backgrounds and a different way of life. While reading the acknowledgments, I discovered that Atwood has so much knowledge about prison life from her research for her novel, Alias Grace. These inmates are so believable and they have incredible personalities that really add to the whole flavour of the story. From their Shakespearean swearing to the rap songs that they sing, the book just has so many laugh out loud moments.
For anyone who is unsure of reading a retelling of any Shakespeare play, this is one that should be picked up. Atwood really does an amazing job of keeping the original play intact, while providing the reader with a new story that is related to the play all at the same time. Hag-Seed is a very enjoyable and brilliant way to reimagine Shakespeare’s The Tempest.