Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ophelia by Lisa Klein

Do you love Shakespeare as much as I do? Well, of course you don't!!!  You wouldn't be trolling the internet if you did.  Wait, I troll the internet.  Never mind.  It is unlikely though. And yes, I loved Will before Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing ever hit PBS. Now, just because you might not like the Bard is no reason to be scared of Ophelia by Lisa Klein.  You know Ophelia as Hamlet's lover/friend/suicidal chick.  Or is she?  Ms. Klein's take on the least discussed character within the entire play is a fairly unique one. (It's long, trust me.  Rent Branagh's version and count the cameos or watch the David Tennant one from PBS.  Avoid Ethan Hawke's at all cost.  Not that he's not cute, but because it sucks and it's set in NYC which is weird.)  One I think Shakespeare would have proud of if he were writing today.

I know, you can't stand the whole Elizabethan English thing with its thine, thou, m'lord-ing.  It's ok, there's none of that here.  Sure, if you have a grasp on it, some of the phrases sound better in your head.  And having even the basic knowledge of the iambic pentameter in which Shakespeare wrote only enhances this story.  Ms. Klein is not the first to take on minor characters from Hamlet, but she might have one of most intriguing takes on the side plots.

What if I told you Ophelia never lost her senses? What if Polonius was more of a stooge than we all thought? What happens after Horatio fulfills his best friend's dying wish? What if Fortinbras has a challenger to the crown of Denmark?

All of these questions and more get their due.  Ophelia is no wilting daisy in this take on the great Dane and his family's demise. She's strong enough to live through assassination attempts, the realization that her dad sucks, the torture that being the new girl in court brings.  "Hey, this sounds like high school" you might be saying.  It's true, there are events within the book that everyone can relate to.  Who cares if you don't like Shakespeare (besides your English or Drama teachers of course)? You're going to love this book.  With the exception of good Queen Bess herself, it's rare that stories set in this era have strong women in positive roles, But Ophelia is chock full of them.

Can't wait to read Lady Macbeth's Daughter just as soon as my local bookstore gets it back in. Until then, I fully hope you give Ophelia the chance she deserves. Now, go read it!!! I'm waiting to hear what you think of it.  And if you disagree, all the better.

Available now from Bloomsbury Publishing. 352 pages, paperback.
It's summer, escape into the pages of a good book. Your messy room and pile of laundry will be there when you get back.

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