Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Ophelia" by Lisa Klein

Today's book review is "Ophelia" by Lisa Klein. This is not a review request. I read Shakespeare's play in college and I was intrigued by this idea but more by the format; it's not a play but a novel. I will examine plot, characters and polish, and then assign a grade.


I was pleased by the plot. Considering this is written from the prospect of Hamlet's Love Interest, one would expect it to be a straight up romance but it is bigger than that because Ophelia is more than a love interest. This is accomplished by the author taking a wider scope than Shakespeare; Ophelia's childhood is included and a substantial part of the book takes place after the play ends. Indeed, 2/3 of the book is original content.

Instead of simply her romance with Hamlet, the story instead follows her desire to find her place in the world. From her home as part of her family, to the Court of Denmark as one of Gertrude's ladies-in-waiting to Hamlet's Inner Circle and beyond. By the way, this is a past-tense first person narration so it's no surprise that she's survives her canon death.

The author fills in some gaps and provides a different perspective on events in the canon story. Some of them are clever. Also, I was pleased to find that no scenes were regurgitated, that is, that Ophelia did not happen to eavesdrop on scenes where she was not present originally.

The ending is terrific. It is a fulfillment of the story's themes and ends as happy as realistically possible.

If I had a compliant about this story it would this: at times it feels like a vessel for feminism. It's not undeserved considering the time period but considering the more gender-neutral themes of the original and some of the original content it stands out. Then again, if one were to take Ophelia's perspective in the original, that would shift the center of gravity. After all, Ophelia has no beef with Claudius beyond that of a mourning subject and so her interest would be elsewhere. Then again, a lot of that interest is how few options are available because of her gender. As you can see, I go back and forth on this.


Naturally, Ophelia receives a much deeper characterization. Instead of a girl that swoons over Hamlet, she is his childhood friend with her own drama and conflict separate from him. However, this isn't new stuff. The madness scene in canon where she talks about flowers and their medical purpose, for instance, is explained as her learning about herbal remedies from two elderly women.

Polonius has become a minor antagonist. He is obsessed with his career and rising in the opinion of the king, though he is minor minister. His "to thine own self be true" line is used to paint him as a hypocrite because he changes himself to suit his current master.


No technical problems (grammar, spelling, etc) and so I'm more interested in the narration. Like I said above, it's first person narration which I often find too self-conscious to accept. I find this one bearable because it's not conversational. It feels more like a diary entry than conversation; a sense that this is not a stream of conscious but an outside observer.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Ophelia" an A+

Click here for the next review (which was a review request): Journey to Altmortis

Click here for the previous review (which was also a review request): Out Of The Grey

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