How Shakespeare may have intended Ophelia’s back story, if readers can trudge through the unrelenting moroseness.
The Headmaster of Elsinore Academy is dead, and his son, Dane (formally known as Hamlet Danemark VI), wants revenge. Ophelia narrates this somber Shakespearean retelling set in the present day. It’s clear from the beginning that Ophelia, a product environmentally and genetically of a mother who committed suicide, has mental illness of her own. In her world, spirits of the dead and other fantastical beings make frequent appearances. Hutchison satisfactorily explains the overbearing, patriarchal “trophy wife traditions” of Elsinore and how this environment influences Ophelia’s choices, as well as Gertrude’s possible motives. The emphasis, however, is on Ophelia’s dark (and unfortunately, tedious) descent into madness, exacerbated by her relationship with Dane, who is battling his own demons. Perhaps the original Edward and Bella, the teens’ sexual relationship turns abusive as Ophelia’s initial bruises escalate into more violent acts. Readers may cry out for adult intervention, but the author remains true to the original story. Although Hutchison mentions phones and computers a few times, she does little to make the story feel contemporary. An odd mix of modern and transformed Shakespearean speech adds to the effect. As the novel continues, it loses its creativity and becomes strictly a Hamlet remix.
For Shakespeare lovers only. (Fiction. 14 & up)