Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood. Pub 2017
This novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, and while the previous novel from the series that I read was exceptional (Macbeth), I had heard that the rest of the series was just so-so. But this one was available (as in, I already owned it), and fit into my vacation pile.
I enjoyed this novel, so much that I could hardly put it down and finished it in just over a day (a sensation I had with the previous volume). Atwood has taken on a retelling of The Tempest (a play I have neither read nor seen), and has masterfully layered this story with both the original play and a modern scenario that mimics it, creating characters that reflect their Bardic originals in creative and surprising ways. The Propsero is a sympathetic figure – likely more in this telling than in the play – whose recent losses and unceremonious upheavals create the motivation for everything that comes after. The setting for the eventual vengeance and resolution of everything is ingenious. The mounting of a play as plot device was reminiscent of the Robertson Davies novel that I read in 2017, but cleverer and clearly achieving the Hogarth objective of retelling Shakespeare’s own story. I’ll now have to check out others in the series (but next year, when my book-buying moratorium is lifted).