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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
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    The Tempest by William Shakespeare (sturlington)
    sturlington: Hag-Seed was inspired by The Tempest

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I normally approach modern retellings of Shakespeare classics with a good deal of trepidation. This time I was rewarded by Atwood's ingenious, elegant, and delightful retelling of The Tempest. There are multiple layers to this version: The Tempest is itself a play within a play, and rather than restaging/telling the play as it's own story set in present time, Atwood puts the play itself within the novel, mirrored brilliantly by the story of the stage director who decides to stage the play within a prison, himself a self-conscious Prospero with his own Tempest narrative to play out. Margaret Atwood is a legend. (Brian) ( )
  ShawIslandLibrary | Apr 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A delightful re-telling of Shakespeare's The Tempest by one of the great storytellers.

Ms. Atwood's Prospero is the director of theater festival who is thrown out by Tony. Prospero plots his revenge from exile during a prison play of The Tempest.

It's far from her dystopian tale in The Handmaid's Tale that is getting so much attention these days, but this is a more enjoyable book. ( )
  dougcornelius | Apr 18, 2017 |
"A retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest" is how this book was promoted, but really it's more like an examination of the character of Prospero. The revenge story doesn't really feel satisfying as we don't experience enough of Tony's cruelty to really want to see his downfall. He shows up in the first scene in the book and again at the end, but is absent through the rest of the book. Felix has reason to hate him but as a reader, I didn't feel I knew him well enough to hate him even though I knew I was supposed to.
1 vote Gayle_C._Bull | Mar 30, 2017 |
I really only chose to read Hag-Seed because it was on the Baileys Prize longlist for this year and my local library had it in stock. I’ve never read Margaret Atwood before because I thought she was all about dystopian worlds. But every year, the Baileys Prize longlist takes me out of my reading comfort zone and shows me authors that I really, really like. Atwood can now be counted on that list. I enjoyed her writing so much that I don’t care if she writes the contents of her pantry in alphabetical order – I’ll read it.

Another thing that attracted me to this book was that it is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, where Shakespeare’s plays are reimagined in contemporary novel form. I enjoyed Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) last year. I wasn’t overly familiar with the play (unless you count the movie 10 Things I Hate About You) but the story was delightful. I’m not too familiar with The Tempest (which Hag-Seed) is based on either, but the book contains a great explanation about the play at the back. I’d recommend that you read that first if you want to see the similarities. Avoid it if you don’t want to know anything about the story!

The extra-cool thing about Hag-Seed is that the story contains characters putting on The Tempest – in gaol. Felix is our Prospero, who was the dazzling, envelope pushing, avant-garde director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His Shakespearean plays have always lead to acclaim and controversy. But then his title and job is taken from him by his right hand man. Suddenly, Felix is nothing, living in a house/cave in the wilderness. For years he sits and broods over the loss of his wife and daughter Miranda. But then he decides to take a new job, teaching literacy in a prison under the nom de plume of Mr Duke. Every year, his students will put on a Shakespearean play for the others. Felix has avoided The Tempest, which was to be his most dramatic production yet (complete with cape made of stuffed toy animals). But with the ghost of his daughter whispering to him, it’s time. Then sweet revenge becomes ever closer as his enemies decide to descend on the prison for the play viewing before they remove funding forever. Will Felix and his cast succeed?

Hag-Seed is clever, witty and very well thought out. The title comes from the list of insults the students make from The Tempest (they are not allowed to swear during class unless they use a Shakespearean insult). Even though all the characters could be considered unlikable, you can’t help but cheer them on as they seek out revenge. Atwood also brings Shakespeare into the modern world with several very clever rap songs from the characters. (So much better than the way we studied Shakespeare!) I think the book would be great if you’re studying The Tempest and it would even attract the Shakespeare-phobic amongst us. I thought it was fun, creepy but also genius. Whether it’s enough to make the Baileys Prize shortlist I’m not sure, but I’m glad it made the longlist so I could be introduced to Margaret Atwood’s works.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
1 vote birdsam0610 | Mar 25, 2017 |
If you’ve never heard of Margaret Atwood , welcome to the planet Earth. Please allow me to show you around. I jest, but the woman has nothing short of 40 major works under her belt, ranging from dystopian fiction, to children’s books, to literary criticism and other non-fiction books on writing and even has a show on Hulu based on her masterwork The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s enough to make you question what you are doing with your life. (Not enough, apparently.) So when I read that she was prepping to release a title for Hogarth Shakespeare, a series of modern re-tellings of Shakespeare’s classics, I immediately sold my book club on it and eagerly awaited its release date.
Hag-Seed is Atwood’s modern spin on The Tempest, the genre-defying tragicomedy that is believed to be the bard’s final play. In it, the betrayed sorcerer Prospero, trapped on a deserted island with his young daughter Miranda, erects a storm at sea to exact revenge on those who have wronged him. Yet, Prospero is no innocent victim that audiences wholeheartedly root for. He is deeply flawed- controlling, ego-maniacal, petty, callous, and cruel at times. Throughout the work, he plays puppet master with the elements and life on the island, eventually achieving his desire, but is still not altogether content and seeks forgiveness and redemption from the gods (and the audience) for the tortures he has inflicted upon others. In Atwood’s spin, Felix, a disgruntled former artistic director, well-known for his extreme interpretations and performances of classic productions, plays our modern Prospero, in all his narcissistic glory.
As a protagonist, Felix is not an easy character to like, nor should he be. Like Prospero, he must grow from a completely self-absorbed master of his art into a being who makes decisions based on the well-being of others. Thus, the further one gets in Hag-Seed, the more one comes around to old Felix. What is particularly endearing, especially to my book club crew of English teachers, is Felix’s transformation from ivory-tower elite artist to humbled prison theater teacher, thereby beginning his substantial character arc and creating another “play within a play” for readers.
If you’ve never read The Tempest, fear not. Atwood does a great job of referencing it throughout the novel in a way that is helpful without being irritating and even includes a full 5-page plain English synopsis in the back of the book, for those who are so inclined. Though this was not my favorite Atwood novel- I absolutely adored Alias Grace and was thoroughly creeped out by Oryx and Crake– it is still quite good and I would certainly recommend it, even outside of literary buff circles. ( )
3 vote Bookwormshawn | Mar 9, 2017 |
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The house lights dim. The audience quiets.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Felix seeks revenge. 
Has jailbirds stage The Tempest.
Entraps his foes! Ha!

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804141290, Hardcover)

Bestselling and multiple award-winning author Margaret Atwood retells The Tempest, one of Shakespeare's most stirring and unforgettable plays.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 03 Mar 2016 19:41:10 -0500)

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