Title: Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold
Author: Margaret Atwood
Release Date: October 6th 2016
Genre: Contemporary (Retelling)
“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.” [Goodreads]
I won this novel in a book swap game last Christmas and I was really happy about it, because I had already read The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood and I thought that was a really good novel! Also, Hag-Seed is an adaption of The Tempest by Shakespeare and that play is one of my favorites, so I was pretty excited by this novel. I was, however, a bit disappointed after reading it.
Hag-Seed is about Felix, who loses everything and wants revenge. It’s a retelling of The Tempest by William Shakespeare and I was very excited to read it. During my bachelor of Literary Studies I had already read and analyzed The Tempest and I’ve also seen a stage performance of the play. I haven’t read all of Shakespeare’s plays yet, but so far this one is my favorite, so a retelling is right up my alley.
However, I didn’t really like the main character. I thought Felix was a bit of a bitter man. I guess he’s supposed to be, but it actually annoyed me a bit. He’s not a character with which I can identify myself and none of the other characters sparked a real interest in me, so that was something I didn’t like about the novel.
I also thought that the plot wasn’t very special. I was expecting something more spectacular and even though it wasn’t a bad plot, it was kind of predictable. I suppose that happens more often with retellings, but I was still hoping to be surprised.
Even though I’m not very excited about the characters and the plot, the writing style of this novel was very good. Margaret Atwood is a great writer and I have nothing bad to say about the way it was written. It was well set up and the novel still read very pleasant, so even though the novel wasn’t my cup of tea I was still able to finish it quite quickly.
My lack of enthusiasm might also have something to do with my knowledge of The Tempest. I know the play very well, having analyzed it a few times, so I already knew almost everything that was discussed about the play and that made some of the parts quite boring to me. However, if you’re not as familiar with the play, then I certainly recommend it, because it does give some good and interesting insights into Shakespeare’s play.