Saturday, July 31, 2010


A young adult novel by Lisa M. Klein retelling Hamlet through the eyes of Ophelia, this novel is intriguing but mixed. Ophelia is a bright strong willed young woman who chafes at the restrictions of her time. But aren’t ALL female main characters in YA like that these days?

Sent to the court by her father, who is a wheeler and dealer, Ophelia attracts the notices and approval first of Queen Gertrude, then of Hamlet. When retelling the traditional Hamlet story, the novel falters. Really, who can do it better than the bard, and the tropes of the story show through in the hands of a novice novelist.

However, when giving voice to Ophelia’s interior voice, the novel rises, and when ultimately Ophelia strikes out on her own and flees Denmark, the story is fascinating, well researched and compelling.

Ophelia’s life in a convent (aparantly, she does “get thee to a nunnery”) is well told. The author draws out parallels between the novices who are trying to please the prioress and in turn the prioresses need to appease the Bishop and her patron and finally, the nobility in Denmark trying to please King Claudius and Queen Gertrude, without over doing it.

This is a YA novel, Ophelia has sex with Hamlet and ultimately becomes pregnant with his child. The scenes are handled delicately, and without unnecessary detail. Due to the author’s sensitive handling, preteens and teens will not “learn” anything from these scenes. However, if a parent is uncomfortable with sexuality and pregnancy, they should read the novel first. Alternatively, read together or as part of a parent child book discussion, it provides an opportunity to discuss these issues and share values in the abstract.

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