The Tempest Retold
Hogarth Shakespeare, an imprint of Crown Publishing, 2016
From the dust jacket: “Margaret Atwood, literary innovator and visionary storyteller, brings Shakespeare’s classic drama of revenge and passion to vivid new life in a contemporary prison.
“Felix is at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded, and his reputation is second to none. Now he is about to stage a Tempest like no other: not only will it dazzle audiences, it will heal emotional wounds.
“At least that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix finds himself living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved daughter, Miranda. But he hasn’t given up, and he is determined to exact his revenge.
“After twelve years, the perfect opportunity finally arrives when Felix signs on to teach a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and the Fletcher Correctional Players will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
“Margaret Atwood’s novel take on The Tempest leads us on an interactive, multimedia journey featuring an unforgettable cast of characters in a completely original imagining of a timeless tale.”
I knew nothing about Shakespeare’s The Tempest before I started reading this book. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know a smidgen more. Shakespeare has always been over my head and Ms Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest, Hag-Seed, is over my head as well. However, she tells the story of Felix’s downfall, his slow walk toward madness, and the revenge that frees him from his past in a very compelling way. At times, I felt sorry for Felix and other times I wanted to kick him in the rear to motivate him. Twelve years is a long time to lick old wounds, but nurse them he does. He plots and plans and cyber-stalks his betrayers, just waiting for the perfect convergence of planets to occur and he is able to exact his revenge. I liked the fact that his revenge plans are kept a secret from the reader until it takes place in the narrative. I was imagining the worst, but as near-to-insanity as Felix was, he exacted a frightening, but nonviolent retaliation.
There is some surreptitious drug use; a conversation by the prisoners about the male characters in the play raping the only female character (the discussion is not graphic); and aside from a few curse words here and there, the book is suitable for both adults and teens who enjoy reading “The Bard.”
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because even though the frequent Shakespeare references flew right by me, Ms Atwood’s fantastic ability to tell a story kept me going when I would have given up with any other author.