Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book Review: Ophelia

Title: Ophelia
Author: Lisa Klein
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fan Fiction


A motherless girl, neglected by her father, grows up to become the queen's favorite and catches the eye of the handsome young prince. It would be a fairy tale--if it weren't a tragedy.

Elsinore is a web of deceit, plots, madness, and betrayal, and young Ophelia soon becomes caught in the middle of it. But this maid of flowers isn't as passive and innocent as she seems. As her beloved Hamlet becomes consumed by the thought of vengeance, Ophelia faces a choice. Will she bind herself to her beloved's fate? Or will she steer her own destiny?


William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a tricky play to figure out. So much depends on how you interpret the characters. I, personally, found Ophelia to be obedient, idealized, and boring--right up until she goes crazy and kills herself. But, as Lisa Klein says, "If Ophelia was so dim, what on earth made Hamlet fall in love with her?"

In this reinterpretation, Ophelia is an equal of Hamlet, every bit as capable of witty wordplay and deceit. Lisa Klein makes good use of events leading up to the play and the things that happen "between the scenes" to flesh out her character and twist the plot. Though Hamlet remains essentially mysterious, his feelings toward Ophelia are clear.

Other supporting characters, on the other hand, get less characterization. Laertes, despite being Ophelia's brother, is hardly present. Horatio, an important character, acts stoic and doesn't express much emotion. Queen Gertrude is lovingly portrayed, but a key question--why she married Claudius--remains unanswered.

The world is believable and well-formed. Klein manages to retain the flavor of Shakespeare's language while keeping it understandable to a modern audience. One of my favorite parts came during the courtship phase, when Hamlet and Ophelia banter suggestively like any romantic couple in a Shakespeare comedy.

Now, I don't think I'm giving much away when I say that Ophelia doesn't die. One major hint is the fact that it's written in first person point of view. Also, a quick glance at the prologue reveals that she's alive to receive news of Hamlet's death. While leading up to the tragedy, the story is fun and vibrant, having the full force of Shakespeare's plot behind it. After the tragedy, the story drags.

The last 100 pages introduces new characters, new settings, and new conflicts, but there doesn't seem to be much of a point to any of it. The string of incidents very loosely continues the themes madness and the unfair double standard of men and women. I had an inkling of how Ophelia might get a happy ending, but I had to wait until the epilogue to have it confirmed and the one brief scene just didn't satisfy me.

So basically, if you skip the final 100 pages and read the epilogue, you'll be fine. I think, on the whole, it's an interesting interpretation and a fine companion to Hamlet.

No comments:

Post a Comment