$25.00ISBN: 9780804141291Availability: On Our Shelves NowPublished: Hogarth - October 11th, 2016
Like Nutshell, the startling reenactment of “Hamlet” I talked about last week, Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, is a Shakespearean retelling, this time” of “The Tempest.” It’s also a novel of revenge unlike any you’ve ever encountered. It involves a famous theatre director, Felix, who, on the brink of launching a production of ”The Tempest” that will secure him eternal fame, is cast out of the world he loves by a conniving assistant. If not already alerted to the fact that, although part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series Hag-Seed is a highly unusual retelling of “The Tempest,” the reader would recognize the odd quality of the rough magic in the air right in the Prologue, which features dialogue in rollicking rap delivered by a burley boatswain; Ariel clad in a blue plastic bathing cap and iridescent googles; the crack of gunshots. Clearly no ordinary play!
But back to the story. Our hero Felix, cast out, downcast, bent on revenge, now lives in an abandoned shack, his only company the ghost of his long-dead daughter Miranda. After finally coming to life Felix applies for a job as theatre director at the local correctional facility. The inmates, dubious to a man and dangerous to say the least, become increasingly enchanted by Shakespeare—re-written to suit their world—and by the heady seductions of theatre, while the reader grows equally enchanted by them. Then Felix learns his nemesis is to visit the prison—preparatory to doing away with the theatre program that the inmates so love.
What follows is pure Shakespeare. Or rather, pure Margaret Atwood: people at cross purposes, plays within plays, star-crossed fates if not lovers, a tangle of betrayal and fealty, love and greed and jealously, all of which proceed at a heart-in-throat pace, the mood at once darkly cynical and deliciously satiric, every page conveying the irresistible sorcery of the stage and the heady air of comedy. Pure magic.