By: Margaret Atwood
Expected Publication Date: October 11, 2016 by Crown Publishing
Format: eARC courtesy of NetGalley
Genres: Adult, Literary Fiction
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
Hag-Seed is Margaret Atwood’s contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare project. The novel is a re-telling of The Tempest. However, you don’t have to be familiar with The Tempest in order to enjoy the Hag-Seed, because a brief summary of the play is provided.
Felix Phillips, a theatrical director, is Hag-Seed’s equivalent of The Tempest’s lead character Prospero. Felix hasn’t had the best of luck; both his wife and daughter passed away and, like Prospero’s exile from Milan, he is ousted from his job as artistic director by his colleagues Tony and Sal. After a time living as a hermit, similar to Prospero’s stay on the island, Felix sets himself two goals to accomplish: to finally put on his production of The Tempest, which had been in rehearsals when he was fired, and to get his revenge on Tony and Sal. Eventually, Felix gets a job at a prison, where he has the inmates put on Shakespeare’s plays as part of the Literacy through Literature program.When Felix learns that his nemeses will be visiting the prison to view one of his performances, he decides to plot his revenge and to finally put on the play they never let him finish – The Tempest.
Prior to Hag-Seed, the only Margaret Atwood book I had read was The Handmaid’s Tale. The two books could not be more different! I consider The Handmaid’s Tale to be one of my favourite books, but it is definitely a heavier read that deals with some very serious issues. Hag-Seed, on the other hand, was an absolute delight to read!
I loved Felix and spent the entire book rooting for his success. I also thought he was absolutely hilarious! For example, the only curse words Felix only allowed his students to use were those that they could find in The Tempest. It was pretty funny seeing the inmates use words like “poxy” and calling each other “whoresons.” Felix even managed to convince the inmates that Ariel, a fairy, could actually be an alien – since, understandably, none of the inmates were too keen on portraying a fairy.
While the story was funny and light in tone, it was also poignant in its depiction of Felix as a father grieving his daughter who, like Prospero’s daughter, was named Miranda.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hag-Seed and highly recommend it if you’re looking for something smart, fun, and quick to read. So, be sure to pick it up when it’s released on October 11, 2016!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.