Hag-Seed

Hag-Seed

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.Eventually he takes...

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Title:Hag-Seed
Author:Margaret Atwood
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Hag-Seed Reviews

  • Elyse Walters

    After Felix, artistic director, of the Makeshiweg Festival, gets weaseled out of his job by Tony, his under-cutting 'right-hand-man' ...he moves off grid

    into a hillside dwelling - an old rustic small shack with cobwebs, a smelly outhouse, surrounded by weeds. He tidied up the inside space --but

    "despite his pathetic attempts at domesticity, he slept restlessly and woke often".

    Both Felix's wife and child are deceased. He lived with grief, yet when Felix was the artistic director of the very repu

    After Felix, artistic director, of the Makeshiweg Festival, gets weaseled out of his job by Tony, his under-cutting 'right-hand-man' ...he moves off grid

    into a hillside dwelling - an old rustic small shack with cobwebs, a smelly outhouse, surrounded by weeds. He tidied up the inside space --but

    "despite his pathetic attempts at domesticity, he slept restlessly and woke often".

    Both Felix's wife and child are deceased. He lived with grief, yet when Felix was the artistic director of the very reputable theatre company, which slime ball Tony is now, it was Felix's memory of his 3 year old daughter, Miranda, who had recently died of meningitis, that gave him purpose in directing

    "The Tempest". ---which he never got to finish - being rushed out quickly.

    So...now Felix has disappeared quite successfully. The sorrow of the loss of his daughter is intensifying. He'd tries to stay busy...goes to the library, buys something at the hardware store just to hear the sound of an ordinary human voice.

    Felix begins to wonder what's happening to him.

    "Had he begun to shamble? Was he regarded as a harmless local eccentric? Was he subject of tittle-tattle, or did anyone notice him at all? Did he even care?"

    "The silence began to get to him. Not silence exactly. The bird songs, the chirping chirping of the crickets, the wind in the trees. The flies, buzzing so contrapuntally in his outhouse. Melodious. Soothing."

    So, what did Felix want? What did he care about? What was his purpose now?

    After spending reprehensible amounts of time sitting in the shade in an old chair he got from a garage sale staring into space....

    He's clear he needs a focus and purpose. Eventually he concluded there were two things left for him to do - "two projects that could still hold satisfaction".

    "First, he needed to get his, 'TEMPEST' back. He had to stage it, somehow, somewhere. His reasons were beyond theatrical; they had nothing to do with his reputation, his career – –none of that. Quite simply, his Miranda must be released from her glass coffin; she must be given a life".

    "Second, he wanted revenge. He longed for it. He daydreamed about it. Tony and Sal must suffer. His present woeful situation was their doing, or a lot of it was. They treated him shabbily".

    He realizes that as Felix Phillips - he's a washed up 'has-been' ....but as Mr. Duke, he might have a chance.

    It's been 12 years since he worked for Makeshiweg. His new stage takes place inside a

    prison:."The Fletcher County Correctional Institute in Ontario".

    A low profile job- engaging with people -getting back in the real world: BRILLIANT!

    Nothing better to help mend grief and grievances than to bring Shakespeare to prisoners! WHAT's NOT TO LOVE? The job came his way through a teacher in the

    Literacy Through Literature program.

    The woman who hired Felix was worried - worried that the prisoners would not be able to handle Shakespeare, given that many of them could barely read. Felix's argument was that Shakespeare's actors were journeyman, and bricklayers, and that they never read whole plays themselves. They memorize their lines.

    "I believe in hands-on", said Felix as authoritatively as he could".

    "Hands-on what?" said Estelle, truly alarmed now. "you have to respect your personal space, you're not allowed to..."

    "We'll be performing", said Felix.

    "That's what I mean. We'll enacting the plays". They'll do assignments and write essays

    and all that". I'll mark those. I suppose that's what's required".

    "Estelle smiled. "you're very idealistic" she said "Essays?" I really..."

    "Pieces of prose," said Felix. "About which ever play we're doing."

    "You really think so?" said Estelle

    "You could get them to do that?"

    "Give me three weeks", said Felix".

    Once inside the prison -- this story is TERRIFIC!!! Flex and the inmates enact modernized versions of Shakespeare, including 'The Tempest". At times hilarious--often charming....and NO PROFANITY ...NO SWEARING!!! ( well, these prisoners are criminals, so it's not a perfect science). They loose points if they use swear words not used in the script. The can't swear at any time if they are in discussion about the characters or themes of the play either - or points Off!!

    "Back to the drawing board", SnakeEye adds.

    "Suck it up, dickhead". says Anne-Marie, or you can make your own fuckin' goddesses plus no cookies".

    Chuckles. "Swearing! Swearing! Points off"! says Leggs"

    This book becomes a play within a play--Felix is out for revenge staging a play....

    just as 'The Tempest', is about a man ( Propero), staging a play for revenge.

    As I was expecting...but was still found inspiring, Felix has a positive effect on the prisoners.

    Moving Along:

    ....Slime Ball Tony is now a politician in Canada and he and other VIPs

    will be coming to see a video taped show of 'Mr. Duke's inmate project with intentions of doing away with the "Literacy Through Literature" program".

    Estelle knows Mr. Duke is Felix Phillips....( she has kept Felix's secret for years and even added support of him with her own camouflage). As far as everyone else -to

    Distinguished visitors-- Dr. Duke is just a broken down old geezer of a failed teacher.

    Tony is going to have a rude awakening.

    Let the revenge begin......or Felix might say he is simply "balancing the scales".

    Wonderful - fun - funny - touching ( teary-eye at the very end) --Really touching!

    WOW!!!!

    I LOVED IT!!!!!

    Thank You Netgalley, Crown Publishing, and Margaret Atwood.

  • Bookdragon Sean

    The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare play.

    I’ve read it dozens of times and watched various versions of it over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen it live yet. One day I’ll see it live at Shakespeare's Globe in London. There’s so much to take from this play, and Atwood’s interpretation completely blew my mind. The way she took one of the lines made me consider this in a completely new light.

    Caliban, the seed of the Hag, could be Prospero’s son?

    The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare play.

    I’ve read it dozens of times and watched various versions of it over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen it live yet. One day I’ll see it live at Shakespeare's Globe in London. There’s so much to take from this play, and Atwood’s interpretation completely blew my mind. The way she took one of the lines made me consider this in a completely new light.

    Caliban, the seed of the Hag, could be Prospero’s son?

    How interesting, I’ve never even considered this before! There’s a very convincing, though of course inconclusive, argument made by one of the characters in here to suggest this.

    But I digress. This is far from the main point. This book is about a man called Felix, and he was the artistic director of a major theatre house until his assistant betrayed him and orchestrated a coup leaving Felix stranded in isolation. Sound familiar? Felix is our Prospero and he wants some revenge. So many years after he is disgraced he gets his opportunity. He stages his own version of

    , using prison inmates that he teaches, to get back at those that wronged him. It is marvellously clever. He takes on the role of Prospero in the play, and he also becomes him in his real life.

    What does this tell us about the story? Shakespeare wrote some truly brilliant narratives, and they really are timeless. Here one has been used in a modern setting to tell us a story that has happened and will happen again. I hesitate to generalise, but one thing I’ve learnt from reading a fair bit of Shakespeare is that his characters are real. They could be real. They are easily to identify with and the stories they have are easily seen in later works and in people’s actual lives. The point is Shakespeare was a very perceptive man, across his body of work he captured much of the human condition.

    So Atwood has recreated The Tempest here and it’s beautiful. She has crafted all the themes of the Tempest into the form of this man’s life. And, ironically, he knows he is living The Tempest. He starts to actually become like Prospero. He becomes unhinged and can only taste that singular bitter pill known as revenge; it is literally all that animates him and it almost drives him too far into the depths of obsessive despair, though he has the power to come back. We all do. Very much in the tradition of the play, Felix comes back to himself.

  • Jeffrey Keeten

    Felix is just too busy to notice. He has his head buried in his work, directing plays at the Makeshiweg Theatre. He has been doing it so long, with such success, that in theater circles, he is in fact a bit of a legend.

    While he works, others plot.

    Well, until two large men from security appear, flanking his arch-nemesis (An)toni(o). Felix is frogged marched out to the alley, with a laughably small severance check and a few bags of belongings which are stuffed into his car by Burly #1 and Burly #2.

    Just like that, he is deposed, usurped, overthrown, dethroned.

    Felix decides that he needs to escape the city. Everything about the city just reminds him of the theater and his past glories. He finds a shack in the country, a hovel really, a cell. He tries to read all those Russian classics he always meant to read, but finds himself instead reading children books to his daughter Miranda.

    Felix broods. He ponders. He grieves for his lost magic. He plots elaborate revenge scenarios. One thing he has learned from Shakespeare about revenge is that it is best served cold.

    After many years of self-imposed exile Felix decides to apply for a job at a correctional facility teaching a literature course. He is, of course, grossly over qualified, but with a wink and a nudge at the Interviewer who recognized him, he was able to take the job under the name F. Duke.

    His nod to Prospero who was the deposed Duke of Milan. He hoped to make his return from exile be Prospero’s escape, as well, from the dusty corners of Felix’s past frustrations. His plans to make

    cut down in infancy by his enemies, can now finally be realized. He throws out the curriculum at the correctional facility class and makes it all about Shakespeare.

    Doomed to failure right? How can mostly uneducated, criminal minds get into Shakespeare?

    Remember the pit at The Globe where the unwashed, the dregs, the petty criminals, and prostitutes filled the theater to capacity to watch Shakespeare’s plays? They were there to get away from their own lives for a couple of hours, but also to revel in the sword fights, the treachery, the intrigue, the ghosts, the magic, the star crossed love affairs, and the madness. Maybe they didn’t always catch all the higher ideal references that are sprinkled liberally among the tombstones, blood spilling, and flying spirits of Shakespeare’s plays, but the level of success Shake and Bake enjoyed attests to the fact that the mob as well as royalty and gentry enjoyed his productions.

    Those incarcerated with the help of The Duke started to see Shakespeare for the badass dude he was. Literacy rates increased. The program because immensely popular.

    With such a hugely successful program the government should be excited about duplicating what Felix is doing in every prison in the country, right? Erhhhh not exactly.

    I know this is Canada, but they must have stolen their talking points from the Republican party in the United States. Justice is about punishment not rehabilitation. In their minds those who have crossed swords with the law don’t deserve the help they need to be something more than just ex-cons when they step out of prison.

    And the politician with his cronies, who are coming to visit this program and see with their own eyes the overindulgence of these miscreants, is none other than Felix’s old friend Tony. As Felix dons the coat of many stuffed animals and transforms into Prospero can he set revenge aside to save the program or will all of his work just be a springboard to destroy his enemies?

    This is yet another great retelling of a classic in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. I would highly recommend reading

    before reading this, but if not you can read the synopsis of

    in the back pages of the

    and that will give you an idea of how wonderfully Margaret Atwood has transformed the original into a heartwarming, brilliant new story. I could not put this book down. Highly recommended!!

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  • Diane S ☔

    I have now read three of the four re-imaginings of Shakespeare's plays and this is my favorite to date, by far. Atwood and I have had an on and off again relationship but here she has outdone herself. The Tempest, a sorry of magic and fantasy, revenge and hatred performed in a correctional institute, by non violent offenders, their stage manager Félix. Félix has known his share of heartbreak and loss, most recently betrayed by his assistant and ousted from a prominent position.

    What Atwood has ac

    I have now read three of the four re-imaginings of Shakespeare's plays and this is my favorite to date, by far. Atwood and I have had an on and off again relationship but here she has outdone herself. The Tempest, a sorry of magic and fantasy, revenge and hatred performed in a correctional institute, by non violent offenders, their stage manager Félix. Félix has known his share of heartbreak and loss, most recently betrayed by his assistant and ousted from a prominent position.

    What Atwood has accomplished here is original, humorous, magical and absolutely delightful. She writes rap songs performed in the play, reimagines lines and characters, updates the dialogue and puts on a play, with a few surprises, that I would love to attend. The characters are amazing, lessons are learned and friendships are made. Absolutely brilliant in my estimation.

    ARC from publisher.

  • Dolors

    A contemporary retelling of

    , Atwood’s novel is part of

    that celebrates the Bard’s 400th anniversary and, in my humble opinion, it more than succeeds in preserving his timeless, thought-provoking genius.

    Instead of narrowing down the complexities of the original play, Atwood embraces them all, adding further layers of ambiguity that open up multiple levels of understanding of the plot and subplots, creating a play within a play in a Russian doll narrative

    A contemporary retelling of

    , Atwood’s novel is part of

    that celebrates the Bard’s 400th anniversary and, in my humble opinion, it more than succeeds in preserving his timeless, thought-provoking genius.

    Instead of narrowing down the complexities of the original play, Atwood embraces them all, adding further layers of ambiguity that open up multiple levels of understanding of the plot and subplots, creating a play within a play in a Russian doll narrative structure.

    Like in Shakespeare’s play, the shifting forces between forms of freedom and imprisonment are at the core of the story. Accordingly, Atwood sets the action in the Fletcher County Correctional Institute, an actual prison in Canada where a motley array of criminals play the parts of the famous characters directed by Felix Phillips, our Prospero and former acclaimed theatre director. Betrayed by his financial manager Tony, Felix has to wait for twelve years before he is ready to scheme a revenge that will harbor hilarious situations and heart-breaking moments seducing all kind of audiences, from the most skeptical to the less demanding reader.

    Irreverently humorous, eclectic, and subtly mordant about the roles of institutions and politicians on prison policies and social reintegration, Atwood is at her best weaving wit, depth and teasing in this adaptation. The Bard’s fierce literacy blends naturally with the slang, modern language used by the inmates with a touch of impish glee that is most sparkling when Felix persuades the actors to use only curse words that are present in the original text in exchange for smuggled cigarettes. Improbable expressions like

    ,

    or

    ensue, making all the convicts not only endearing but also irresistibly funny. An inventive tribute to the Bard that I bet he would have approved of.

    In spite of the fast-paced, almost casual style of Atwood’s storytelling and the light-hearted teasing between the somewhat clichéd cast of characters nothing is only one way in “Hag-Seed”. Everything comes in layers of double and triple meaning. Felix is both victim and oppressor, masterful playwright and prisoner of his own text; the actors are potentially dangerous criminals but also dissenters in a corrupt, unfair system. The play itself, like the island or the prison, goes back and forth between illusion and truth, vengeance and forgiveness, confinement and liberating force, like a shifting reflection on a mirror that splits up the light rays into a prismatic rainbow.

    The last chapters of the novel are climatic, but they also invite the reader to careful meditation. Atwood seems to be asking whether we can ever get free from the inner prisons we build for ourselves. Grief for his lost baby daughter shackles Felix for twelve years, but her Ariel-like spirit whispers to him amidst the vast oceans of time and possibility, making the implausible more real than reality itself. She seems to say that if you can suspend disbelief and allow the sprites and the goblins eavesdrop into your secret hopes and fears, the poison might slowly turn into sweet wine. But until when?

    What ultimately differentiates the villain from the hero is the courage to let go of those you retain at your side, to gather enough stamina to set them free, to send them back to the elements, to the magic of timeless limbo; and bid them a well-meant farewell from our lonely shores, and keep on walking at a steady pace towards the place we belong.

  • Hannah Greendale

    to watch a video review of this book on my channel,

    .

    Felix is the Artistic Director of the Makeshiwig Theater Festival and a theatrical visionary whose outlandish re-imaginings of Shakespeare's plays have both baffled and awed critics. On the cusp of staging

    , a play Felix intends to make his greatest work yet, an act of unforeseen treachery relieves him of his position and strips him of professional dignity. Twelve years later, after a need to aven

    to watch a video review of this book on my channel,

    .

    Felix is the Artistic Director of the Makeshiwig Theater Festival and a theatrical visionary whose outlandish re-imaginings of Shakespeare's plays have both baffled and awed critics. On the cusp of staging

    , a play Felix intends to make his greatest work yet, an act of unforeseen treachery relieves him of his position and strips him of professional dignity. Twelve years later, after a need to avenge himself has metastasized in Felix's heart, revenge arrives in the form of a teaching position at a nearby prison, Fletcher County Correctional Institute, where Felix will at last stage

    and ensnare the traitorous men who were the cause of his ruin.

    is a cleverly constructed, satirical retelling of

    , executed through Felix and his band of convicted con men staging their own fanciful and strange retelling of the play. This overlap in storytelling succeeds in educating readers who have never seen the play, delighting those familiar with Shakespeare's tale of castaways stranded on a remote island plotting and scheming against one another, and being an on-the-nose representation of

    .

    The Tempest

    Felix's obsession with recreating

    is about more than just revenge. His intentions are personal and rooted in grief, which adds depth to his motives and enriches the narrative. Felix wishes to memorialize his deceased daughter, Miranda (whose namesake is derived from the play).

    Tempest

    The prison is the island where Felix will don his cape and conjure a scheme designed to raise him above his enemies, to position himself as ruler and deity, implementing justice and allotting punishment where reprimand is due. He never imagined he would educate cons in the slammer, but the inglorious prison is nevertheless where his scheme must unfold.

    After a flashbang intro and an amusing romp through Felix's machinations, the book reaches a satiating conclusion and offers a memorable closing line with meaning that resonates.

    Good for a laugh, enchanting for its superlative writing, surprisingly tenderhearted and sublimely constructed,

    is a ravishing literary parody.

  • Fabian

    Put bluntly, Atwood's last two have sah-ucked.

    Yeah, this one's included. & here's why: the premise of "The Tempest Retold" is masterful with the prison standing in for the island and the master portrayed as a theater director--the temptation to bring a 400+ year work from the best English writer of all time into our contemporary one deserves much applause. And follow through. Instead, we get almost exactly where we thought that all of this was going (this, despite never having read this Shak

    Put bluntly, Atwood's last two have sah-ucked.

    Yeah, this one's included. & here's why: the premise of "The Tempest Retold" is masterful with the prison standing in for the island and the master portrayed as a theater director--the temptation to bring a 400+ year work from the best English writer of all time into our contemporary one deserves much applause. And follow through. Instead, we get almost exactly where we thought that all of this was going (this, despite never having read this Shakespearean play myself)--the prisoners that make up the players have no individual personalities, and sound rather too articulate. Where's the grit? There is 0 plot involving what the prisoners would REALLY act like, given the chance to express themselves in art.

    "Hag-Seed" has all the readability and high-ish literature you will ever likely find in a Margaret Atwood novel. But like "The Heart Goes Last", it seems she just rushed the ending. The plot ends prematurely, & the rest is this: lit appreciation. We get many points of view about what the whole play means, after the plot of the novel itself expires. Like... what?! I do not care to read transcripts from a creative writing/literature class in a work of fiction. Not in this format--the expected masterpiece that finally lets you down...

  • Cecily

    It’s just over 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. How can we ensure his continued relevance?

    The publisher’s answer was to commision a series of Shakespeare Retold novels. Atwood’s answer was to demonstrate exactly

    to cultivate understanding of and enthusiasm for the Bard to modern and potentially unenthusiastic students: low-literacy prisoners.

    Atwood has a clear agenda: Shakespeare was and is for everyone, literacy matters

    It’s just over 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. How can we ensure his continued relevance?

    The publisher’s answer was to commision a series of Shakespeare Retold novels. Atwood’s answer was to demonstrate exactly

    to cultivate understanding of and enthusiasm for the Bard to modern and potentially unenthusiastic students: low-literacy prisoners.

    Atwood has a clear agenda: Shakespeare was and is for everyone, literacy matters, and rehabilitation of criminals is possible. She is also anti-establishment (especially politicians), and has mixed feelings about pretentious theatricality.

    Felix Phillips is the Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival, renowned for radical and very creative adaptations of the Bard. After losing his wife and then small daughter, he throws himself into staging his beloved Tempest, only to be sacked and replaced by a friend, in league with another friend and colleague. Felix retreats to an anonymous and solitary life, a hermit on a metaphorical island. A decade later, he takes on the running of a literacy and theatre course at a prison. In the fourth year, they do The Tempest. That production is the main story.

    The book ends with new beginnings for some (but also shadows).

    It helps if you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s original (though perhaps not if you adore it), but the story stands on its own, explaining parallels where necessary, and there is a plot summary at the back.

    Although it repeatedly claims to be about revenge, it's at least as much about coping with grief, and about inspirational teaching.

    Felix lost his wife as she gave birth to their daughter, Miranda (her name is no coincidence for Felix, or Atwood), who then died of meningitis when she was only three. He rattles off a list of lost daughters in Shakespeare, noting that some of them were found. Putting on The Tempest is not just a distraction, but “

    ” When that is taken away, he has nothing left. Grief drives him to the brink of madness, maybe over the edge. He is haunted by Miranda, and wants only two things: The Tempest, and revenge, though he makes little attempt to achieve either.

    Felix has no Caliban or Ariel, and his Miranda is a ghostly memory of his little girl, ever-present, but aging with the passing years. She is more visible in twilight,

    Years later, he is finally able to cross the threshold of a toy shop, only because she would have been too old to be interested by then, “a world of damaged wishes, forlorn hopes… So bright, so shining, so out of reach for him.”

    Felix monitors the careers of Tony and his fellow turncoat, Sal O’Nally, as they move from theatrical success, to political office.

    Although revenge is often mentioned, Felix seems more motivated by angry obsession - until an opportunity presents itself for him to conjure a tempest of his own. And then it all gets rather silly.

    How to be a spectacular teacher. This was the most captivating (and unexpected) aspect for me. The book would be good for teachers of English lit and drama, and for their students,

    they have read, seen, or performed the play.

    It’s mostly set in a prison literacy class, where they do one Shakespeare play per course. Felix has no experience of teaching or prisons, but he’s very aware of who he is dealing with. He’s sensitive to possible anger and depression, and determined to make the daunting prospect of Shakespeare accessible, educational, and above all, enjoyable.

    He picks plays that involve disputes and betrayal the men can relate to, where bad behaviour is (mostly) punished, and there are new beginnings for many: Julius Caesar, Richard III, and Macbeth. “It conjures up demons in order to exorcise them.” Adopting a stage name is a new beginning in itself.

    Felix looks up the crimes of his students, but deliberately and consistently calls them “actors”, rather than “prisoners” or “inmates”. Before each course starts, he gives them a synopsis, with notes, character analysis, and glossary. In class, they can only swear using Shakespearean terms (hence the title, Hag-Seed, applied to Caliban, the witch’s child). They are encouraged to adapt the words, as long as they don’t change the plot (hence rap lyrics). The performances are recorded, scene-by-scene, and eventually broadcast as a single show on the prison CCTV.

    Finally, they have to imagine what happens next for all the main characters. They have some radical ideas, well-argued (Could Prospero be Caliban’s father?), and wrestle with difficult questions (Is goodness always weak?).

    The course is a huge success with the actors, the audience, and thus the authorities:

    But conjuring enthusiasm for The Tempest, with fairies and no battles, is a much bigger challenge. Felix leads them to consider superhero and alien alternatives, and gives them the challenge of finding the nine instances of imprisonment in the text, giving prisoner, prison, and jailer for each (p125 and p274).

    This aspect reminded me of other inspirational teachers, specifically, Hector, Irwin, and Mrs Lintott in Alan Bennett's

    (which I reviewed

    ) and John Keating (Robin Williams) in

    .

    ” As are the the prison and Felix.

    Stories-within-stories have always been around (The Tempest is one such), but there seems to be a current vogue for

    -layered tellings like this: a play, within a play, within a novel, whose characters have many parallels with those in the central play.

    In fact, there are two versions of the central play, and even the “real” framing narrative is occasionally ambiguous about reality:

    .

    The nesting of narratives makes the pairings and parallels more numerous and complex, especially between each actor and their role. For example, Felix’s life has many parallels with Prospero’s, and his Miranda has many facets, including a paternal relationship with the actress who plays Miranda. There are conceptual pairs, too: prison and freedom; punishment and education. Setting someone free can be just as liberating for the captor as captive.

    Lots of scope for lessons there.

    This is one of a series of contemporary novelisations commissioned by the Hogarth Press for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016:

    The only other one I’ve read is Winterson’s retelling of The Winter’s Tale,

    , which I reviewed

    .

    * “Felix the cloud-riding enchanter, Tony the earth-based factotum and gold-grubber.”

    * “At the thought of it even his lungs blush.”

    * Memories “Fading like an old Polaroid. Now she’s little more than an outline; an outline he fills with sadness.”

    * “The cloak of his defeat, the dead husk of his frowned self.” Felix’s costume for Prospero, never worn at Makeshiweg, but safely stored in his wardrobe. When he eventually puts it on, it “is like stepping back into a shed skin; as if the coat is wearing him”.

    * “It’s the words that should concern you” Felix thinks, as his bags are checked.

    * “A glassy whispering: it’s the dead weed stalks that are sticking up through the drifts, glazed with ice, stirred by the wind. Tinkling like bells.”

    * “That unique smell. Unfresh paint, faint mildew, unloved food eaten in boredom, and the smell of dejection… The smell of misery lying over everyone like an enchantment. But for brief moments he knows he can unbind that spell.”

    * “Prospero is not crazy. Ariel exists… The enchantments are real. Trust the play… But is the play trustworthy?”

    I think Atwood had more fun writing this than I had reading it. It is a clever and carefully crafted book in many ways, with lots to think about, but it is also heavy-handed, banal (“Felix… drove out of the parking lot, into the rest of his life”), clichéd (lazy theatrical stereotypes), and plain over-the-top (Disney dolls, rap, aliens and superheroes, digital special effects).

    18 months ago it was

    (also partly set in a prison, and which I reviewed, 2*

    ), now this. Atwood doing satire/humour is not for me.

    Shakespeare should have the final words, not Atwood, let alone me.

    “Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

    As I foretold you, were all spirits and

    Are melted into air, into thin air:

    And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

    The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

    As dreams are made on, and our little life

    Is rounded with a sleep.”

    - Prospero, Act 4 Scene 1["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Esil

    Oh dear. I think that Margaret Atwood and I are just not meant to be. With the exception of Cat's Eye, every time I read one of her books, I admire her cleverness -- her wry intellect and dry wit -- but I just can't connect. Hag Seed gave me the same experience all over again. Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, Hag Seed is a modern retelling of The Tempest. It features Felix -- a fallen director from a thinly disguised Stratford Festival -- who plots his revenge through a staging of The Te

    Oh dear. I think that Margaret Atwood and I are just not meant to be. With the exception of Cat's Eye, every time I read one of her books, I admire her cleverness -- her wry intellect and dry wit -- but I just can't connect. Hag Seed gave me the same experience all over again. Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, Hag Seed is a modern retelling of The Tempest. It features Felix -- a fallen director from a thinly disguised Stratford Festival -- who plots his revenge through a staging of The Tempest at a jail where he teaches literacy through theatre. Felix's story mimics The Tempest, making this somewhat of a play within a play. It is undoubtedly clever. Besides the structure, Atwood builds in many humorous details, especially in the way the inmates reimagine The Tempest. And there's an element of surprise, because while we know revenge is on its way, the form it will take is only revealed at the end, with intended and unintended consequences. But I never really felt drawn in, awed or affected by Atwood's rendition of The Tempest. I felt like a distanced observer of a clever spectacle. I do expect this one will work for many readers. I just don't seem to be able to fall in step with Atwood's mind or sensibility. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

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