**Sorry this is late-I forgot to prep it before the Taylor concert; I definitely have thoughts and will try to get them up this weekend!**
Carolrhoda Lab, 2013
Scheduled to release September 1
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
*Spoilers if you are not familiar with the play "Hamlet"*
Though I'm not the biggest Shakespeare fan, I do find myself inevitably drawn to the works that pay direct homage to his writing such as this take on "Hamlet," which focuses in on the tragic figure of Ophelia. I tend to prefer comedies so I was a little worried about how the drama and tragedy would play out.
Almost immediately though I was swept away by the beautiful writing and the intriguing updates to the characters. This variation follows (from what I remember) the Hamlet play very closely but because it is a novel from Ophelia's perspective, it emphasizes her feelings and actions a lot more. Here the twisted relationship between Ophelia and Dane (as Hamlet is known) takes center stage; though love is spoken of, it is dark and painful, abusive even at times. We also see a lot more of Ophelia's mother who is a ghost, seen only by Ophelia. Her mother's legacy hangs heavily over Ophelia until that inevitable conclusion.
I do have some problems with the world. I appreciated that it was all set at Elsinore Academy, its tight confines restricting the characters. But while references to computers and phones indicated it was set in the present day, it also felt very out of time. It seemed very old-fashioned especially emphasized with the school's odd curriculum that cultivates women to be ideal hostesses and companions to their successful husbands. Do places like that really still exist in this day and age? Do families really send their daughters off to expensive boarding schools content that they're getting an inferior education to their brothers? Coming from a family of just daughters that strongly values education, that is very difficult for me to wrap my head around.
This atmosphere is the kind that raised Gertrude who has always seen herself as the hostess, wife to the headmaster and that attitude really helped me to see how she so quickly married her husband's brother. She had grown up with both boys and had never really evinced a preference. When brother Claudius is posed to become headmaster, she remembers that childhood and her position as headmaster's wife and desires to retain it.
As for the end, my disappointment is that the book is narrated by Ophelia. If you remember what happens, she dies before the end of the play and the book follows that meaning we don't get to see the final duel between Dane and Laertes though we know how that shakes out. Still I wish there had been a way to actually show it all (note: I'm not complaining about the tragic nature as I was prepared by the source material and also because it seemed so fitting. No one was making very smart decisions so of course there's going to be a lot of death.)
One last note so I don't forget is that a lot of lines from the play are incorporated into the story. It has been probably about five years since I read it and even I managed to recognize some lines. A more recent reading would probably add greater depth to your connection with this story.
Overall: A beautifully written ethereal experience-a perfect companion to reading the play itself (I mean, the play's the thing :)
Cover: One might think I was drawn to the purple flowers that match so perfectly with the title. But it is front foot that grabs my eye-I do not think mine can arch quite like that and it makes me think she's a dancer.
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