For me, Margaret Atwood is one of those writers who quietly keeps invading the literary world, transforming fiction and storytelling and leaves an indelible imprint on the reader’s soul. I don’t seek out her works the way I should (and the way I do for a few other writers) which is why she seems so quiet to me. But of course that’s really on me and no one else.
I was drawn to this not only because it’s an Atwood novel but because of the Shakespeare theme – the description of this as a re-telling or re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. When not reading and writing my blog, I work for a Shakespeare festival and have an affection for Shakespeare’s works. I applaud any opportunity to bring his stories to a new audience.
Atwood is a remarkable and gifted writer and she takes this story and puts her magic touch on it, bringing it to a very modern world.
The story is about Felix – an artistic director at a major theatre who very suddenly is given the ol’ heave-ho and replaced by his assistant. Understandably, Felix is upset and wants to make the theatre regret their decision but finding a way to make a bold, theatrical statement is hard to do without a theatre company.
Felix becomes involved with a program called Literacy Through Theatre where he teaches and stages theatre productions at a local correctional facility (prison). His current production? The Tempest.
In a rather unique manner, Atwood retells the story in multiple layers. There is the straight-forward manner of Felix’s teaching the story to the inmates, but we also see the parallels of the story to the characters inside Atwood’s story. Felix isn’t just playing Prospero … he is a modern Prospero – discarded, lost, looking for revenge. In fact, all the characters are the characters that they are portraying in some way. It’s a brilliant bit of writing.
I can’t say that I’ve ever seen The Tempest where I felt so connected to the characters as much as I did with this book, and I feel I’ve seen some very good productions.
One small touch that I just loved was the idea that Felix presented to his inmate cast – that they could not swear during their rehearsals unless they did so using Shakespeare’s words.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and can be enjoyed on so many different levels. It is highly recommended.
Looking for a good book? Hag-Seed shows why Margaret Atwood is a true powerhouse as a writer and why Shakespeare’s plays are still relevant to us today.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Margaret Atwood
series: Hogarth Shakespeare
hardcover, 301 pages