This is a review of the book Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood.
Shakespeare (probably) last play, The Tempest, was a genre mixer for him that broke many of his typical was of doing things. The Tempest blends elements of comedy with aspects of tragedy, and all throughout the play his writing critiques the very craft he is using to present the critique. In a similar fashion, Margaret Atwood’s retelling of the narrative of The Tempest in her book Hag-Seed is a book that seemingly deviates from her normal authorial modus operandi.
When one thinks of Atwood and her writing style, the words that come to mind are: emotional, poignant, and even sharp. Hag-Seed is all these things. But it is also leveled, unsettled, and funny.
Hag-Seed moves the drama of The Tempest from a Caribbean island to a non-descript populated area with small towns, a metropolitan area, and a jail. The protagonist is no longer the political exile Prospero with the daughter Miranda, but now a professional exile named Felix with a deceased daughter named Miranda. There is still an element of revenge, and in the end the protagonist still encounters something about himself that makes him do a similar action to Prospero when Prospero breaks his magic wand and rid himself of his spell book (I am being elusive for the sake of avoiding any spoilers). But for all of the serious elements, Atwood does something brilliant which is understated in a many of her other works: she incorporates a darkly comedic element to the writing.
This is what makes Hag-Seed worthy of being a retelling of The Tempest, it masterfully incorporates a style of humor into an otherwise dramatic and almost tragic narrative. Shakespeare did this dexterously and in this book, Atwood does the seem with an equal level of balance and finesse.
For the Shakespeare fan, Atwood fan, and the appreciator of good fiction writing, consider picking up a copy of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed. The reader does not necessarily need to know or be familiar with Shakespeare’s The Tempest to enjoy this book, but knowing it will make some of the inside jokes stand out. In the end, Hag-Seed is an enjoyable read for the literature lover who wants something to engage him or her on many different emotional levels.
I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.