Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
I’m a big fan of Atwood, although I wasn’t always. My fiancé actually introduced me to her through her trilogy Oryx & Crake, which I’ve written about a few times on the blog. Since then, I’ve also read The Handmaid’s Tale. (which everyone, I’m sure, has heard of) Alex has read Stone Mattress (well half of it) and we have The Blind Assassin on the to-read shelf as well. When I saw Hagseed available for review I knew that I needed to check it out. So let’s give it a brief overview here:
Hag-seed is a re-telling of The Tempest, in a very interesting and original way. Our lead is a older man named Felix who is an artistic director of a small local theatre. He’s a bit eccentric and has made a lot of enemies in the business with his flippant and outrageous ways and during his planning of his version of The Tempest (in which he plans to direct and play in as well) he is fired and replaced by the man who was working under him. He sends himself into exile, into what sounds exactly like a hermit-like hut out in the middle of the country in Ontario. There he lives only in a minimalistic way with his young daughter Miranda…..who has been dead for twelve years. He spends his days mourning the loss of his old life, watching Miranda play, and planning his revenge against those who wronged him. Through his planning, he ends up getting a job at a prison teaching prisoners about literature, and staging plays in the prison with them as well. He is popular with the prisoners and finally his chance to get revenge shows itself, and he can finally stage his version of The Tempest and reclaim his lost life.
Sounds interesting right? Let’s preface this by saying: I’ve never read the original script of The Tempest before. I’ve read other things by Shakespeare and my best friend took classes on Shakespeare in college (English major problems) so I hear a lot about him, but I still haven’t read much by him except the things we had to read back in high school. Anyways, I had no idea what the story of The Tempest was about, so I spark noted it first, so I wouldn’t be completely in the dark. Although the book does a great job explaining the play and the characters throughout, so you don’t need to really understand the play before reading the book. I really loved that, since I felt like I got to learn about the play while reading a hilarious retelling of it.
“It’s the words that should concern you, he thinks at them. that’s the real danger. words don’t show up on the scanner.” – Hag-seed
The characters were fabulous. Felix is a wild card, he is clearly a smidgen crazy and he is completely consumed with his revenge against the men who caused his exile from the theatre. The prisoners/actors are all hilarious and make some great statements about the characters that they play. Felix’s revenge is well-thought out and completely ridiculous, and would never work unless every piece fell into place perfectly. I was never bored while reading, the whole story had me entertained. It’s also a rather small book, not a huge hulking novel or anything like that.
With the trend of story re-tellings in the YA literature world, I loved this as a different take on the whole thing. The characters were great, it was full of laughs, and it didn’t try to hide that it was a re-telling of Shakespeare. Also, you can get a lot of hilarious Shakespearian insults to sling at people from the book, which is always fantastic.