Hag-Seed [Hogarth Shakespeare] by Margaret Atwood [in Library Journal]
In the fourth – and most entertaining – of the updated-by-famous-contemporary-authors “Hogarth Shakespeare” series (which also includes Jeannette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, Howard Jacobson’s Shylock Is My Name, and Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl), The Tempest gets reset to an Ontario theater festival and a correctional facility. Atwood (Oryx and Crake) brilliantly transforms the Bard’s tale of lost power and exile into a multimedia production of backstage intrigue and creative revenge.
Felix (Prospero) is the lauded artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival (think Canada’s famed Stratford Festival), but his blind trust in his partner Tony (Antonio) allows the “Machiavellian foot-licker” to usurp Felix’s position. Banished from his dramatic kingdom, Felix retreats to a hovel where his dead daughter Miranda is his only (magical) company.
He finally ventures out to teach literacy at a local prison, where surprisingly talented inmates will stage – via big-screen technical machinations – The Tempest. Convenient paths toward revenge and restoration are revealed.
Narrator R.H. Thomson is perfectly cast, with his round Canadian vowels, infectious energy, and diverse vocal adaptations; he’s even convincing as a beatbox rapper. For the inventive cursing alone (17th-century vintage only), this Tempest should find favor with most literary audiences, including YA readers; AP English students might be especially grateful.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult