Reinterpreting Shakespeare is one of those things that seems obvious on paper, I mean Shakespeare himself borrowed large swaths of his ideas of those that came before him, so turning it into a cycle is an obvious get. The problem is the weight of Shakespeare’s work has become so ensconced in the collective psyche of the world that to simply attempt to retell leads to light beer literature that feels more lazy than anything close to homage or retelling. Atwood realizes this and instead uses The Tempest as the conduit for the main conflict of the book., using the modernized retelling in the parallels of one director’s life is drawn perfectly in line with that of The Great and Mighty Wizard Prospero.
It comes together quickly and with little room for dallying around or to prod and poke the characters outside the remarks given by keen observer and main character Felix, which given that its inspiration is from plays, makes a great deal of sense. Through excellent use of dialogue and cleverly crafted humor, the most important characters manage to feel real if slightly underexplored. After all, this is Prospero/Felix’s story, the rest is simply the backdrop of a journey to revenge.
I have not read any of the other Hogarth Shakespeare series and I’m not sure I’m going to, not because I didn’t like this book, but because I cannot for the life of me imagine someone putting forth a finer more spiritually in sync retelling than the one Atwood has constructed for us here.
“Miranda nods, because she knows that to be true: noble people don’t do things for the money, they simply have money, and that’s what allows them to be noble. They don’t really have to think about it much; they sprout benevolent acts the way trees sprout leaves.” ― Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed