I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Margaret Atwood
Published by Hogarth on October 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Retelling
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Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and will be the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.
The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion -- starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.
In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.
There’s a lot of Shakespearean swearing in this new Tempest adventure…but also a mischief, curiosity and vigour that’s entirely Atwood and is sure to delight her fans.
I want to start this review by saying that I love Margaret Atwood’s work. Although usually subversive and political in nature, her novels are always beautifully written with strong characters and interesting worlds. I haven’t read all of her novels yet, a lofty goal of mine, but I am incredibly impressed by the versatility of Atwood’s writing.
Unfortunately, Hag Seed, although beautiful and well written, was a flop for me. The story felt forced and the tale took awhile to come to a close – which could entirely be because it is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and did not allow for a whole lot of wiggle room for Atwood to work. I don’t think this was one of Atwood’s best work and will most definitely not top my list of favourite novels of all time, but it was a lovely re-telling of a well studied work. In true Atwood style we see political opinion in this novel (prisons and rehabilitation being one of the minor themes), but the majority of the novel follows our thwarted and revenge thirsty Felix.
Hag Seed: A tale of deceit, revenge, salvation and loss. A wonderfully executed rendition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that perhaps took a little too long to reach it’s crescendo, but nevertheless an interesting read.
Felix, having lost his daughter and his beloved job as artistic theatre director of Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, finds himself teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution by using “modernized” Shakespeare reenactments to help rehabilitate prisoners. Eventually, Felix’s old nemesis visits the theatre and chaos reigns in Felix’s attempt to seek revenge. I often felt incredibly sorry for Felix because life really can be that cruel – and even understood his desire for revenge – but I did not condone his methods. Regardless, the tale of the Tempest was amusing, uplifting and creatively re-invented to make a story that, although not Atwood’s best, is still wholesomely Atwood.
All-in-all, Hag Seed was worth a read if only to allow me to have interesting conversations with my otherwise literary involved friends. I am not certain I took anything deeply thought provoking from this novel, but it is definitely worth the read for those whole are interested in the more serious literary genre with a splash of humour. The various verses the inmates create to re-work Shakespeare into a more modern language were rather amusing, but could also upset some of the more die hard Shakespeare lovers.
Hag Seed was OK, and that’s also okay because at least I have a great book to discuss with my friends who read serious literature because Hag Seed is cognitively accessible to all.
This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy Shakespeare re-tellings and novels about revenge. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy serious literary treasures with undercurrents of the political. I also suggest this to those who enjoy Atwood’s previous work since there are still elements of “Atwoodization” throughout this modern re-telling – the only downside is it appears the author struggled a bit to fit her personality into such a small, previously structured novel.