Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

This was 324 pages, really? It breezed by so quickly, an under-rated quality in serious fiction, and I was so, so happy to not cringe my way through another of Margaret Atwood’s recent works. Of course, she’s not completely off the hook, but her modern-day adaptation of The Tempest, a novel about a man whose life parallels the play’s in so many wondrously meta ways, is a sure-handed examination of what is easily my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, sans the tiresome preachiness that permeates her eco-dystopian novels. There are, of course, bits that align themselves too easily with the play but, as with its source material, Hag-Seed isn’t above a little hand-waving to reach a neat conclusion.

And I really, really liked how Ms Atwood translated the play into the prison setting. Her empathy with the prisoners and her support for their literacy and enrichment programs was clear throughout, as was her belief in the transformative powers of the arts. I did also find myself admiring the lyrics she wrote, tho I did keep wondering if those were Hamilton-inspired. The chapters where the prisoners described the play’s characters’ after-lives were also compelling.

I’m not sure if I’ll read more of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, but I’m really glad I picked up this one. It’s a beautifully layered, swift and elegant read that incorporated the source material in an effortlessly clever way.

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