Author: Lisa M. Klein
Genre: YA, Romance, Historical Fiction
How did I get it? Powell’s (Portland bookstore/giant palace of awesome)
Summary: He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.
In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia’s happiness is shattered. Ultimately, she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever . . . with one very dangerous secret.
Lisa Klein’s Ophelia tells the story of a young woman falling in love, searching for her place in the world, and finding the strength to survive. Sharp and literary, dark and romantic, this dramatic story holds readers in its grip until the final, heartrending scene.
Review: I’m honestly not sure if I loved this book or not. I’m a Shakespeare girl, so I was in love with the idea of a retelling from Ophelia’s point of view, but I don’t know how to think about this novel.
It was well-written, although a bit archaic for a YA novel. Ophelia had plenty of wit and she was a very compelling heroine. Hamlet was portrayed fairly accurately, I think, although their love story seemed a bit stilted to me. Gertrude was a very intriguing woman, and the only character whom I could say I had a problem with was Laertes. His actions weren’t really explained very well and I felt like he was sort of passed over and made into a two-dimensional character when there was plenty of opportunity to show him in a more human light.
I really did love Ophelia for her thirst for knowledge and her awareness of the sexism within her culture. In a good deal of YA fiction, I see so many instances where the imbalance between women and men is obvious but never addressed. I didn’t have this problem with Ophelia. I could rely on the main character to realize the injustice of her situation and do her best to counter it, and that was very refreshing.
I think my only serious issue with this novel was the latter part of it. The plot is faithful to the original play, but because it doesn’t end where Shakespeare ended it, the last stretch of the book was rather boring. The author tacked on another hundred pages or so, and that much falling action is a bit of a yawn. But the end was very satisfying and I liked the way she brought everything full circle in this very bittersweet, hopeful way that made me smile.
Probably not to the average teenager girl, but certainly to anyone with an appreciation for Shakespeare.
Other books by the author: