Monday, September 29, 2008

Ophelia by Lisa Klein (3/5 stars)

I am a big fan of Hamlet and I have always wondered what the rest of Ophelia's story is. When of saw this reimagining of Hamlet, from Ophelia's prospective, I was wary but interested. Unfortunately, while decently written, the story was just plain boring and at sometimes forced.

The story starts from Ophelia's point of view earlier than the play, back when the court of King Hamlet was a happy place. There is even a brief meeting with Yorick the jester. It seems okay, the author tries to stay true to the writing style of Hamlet but also tries to make it easily readable. This was okay and overall better than trying to mimic Shakespeare. Unfortunately the author forces in famous parts from the original play. She tries to put them in word for word and they seem strange and stilted in with the rest of the story. It is just plain odd.

The back history and Ophelia's life after where the original play ends seem kind of boring. I am sure that the author means Ophelia to seem spirited and rebellious. To me though Ophelia's story seems rather plain; Ophelia takes what seems to me to be a rather typical route of women that were shunned in that time period. There is no stretch of the imagination here. I wonder if that is meant to make the story more realistic or maybe more in keeping with the times? The tragedy of Hamlet is in itself fanciful so I don't understand why you wouldn't stay with that and make Ophelia have a more interesting part in it all.

Despite all the things I didn't like there were some things I did like. I did like that the author stayed true to the major plotline of Hamlet. I liked the glimpse of the court before King Hamlet's death. And, although it was not in keeping with a tragedy, I liked the hopeful ending. Although even this rankled a bit because after having Ophelia rail against the men in her life it seemed odd for the author to hint that Ophelia would feel more complete with the addition of a man to her life. Maybe this was meant to be ironic. It also bothered me that the characters in this book seemed less passionate than in the play; you would think a book would give more license to character development.

All in all this may be a book I could have never really loved no matter who the writer was. It is an almost insurmountable task to fill-out a story written by Shakespeare. I applaud the author for the attempt. I just wish it was a more interesting and more well-written attempt. As it stands this book was okay, but nothing more. I don't think I will read anything more by this author, her writing style definitely didn't grab and take hold of me.

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