Despite anachronistic language, this inventive retelling of Hamlet resonates through clear plotting and strong...

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THE LORD CHAMBERLAIN'S DAUGHTER

Ophelia offers the true story behind what caused things to turn rotten in the state of Denmark in this postmodern take on Hamlet.

Fritsch’s (Cordelia Lionheart, 2018, etc.) work opens with an event labeled The Visit, which turns out to be King Fortinbras’ meeting with Ophelia, who had long been believed to be dead, at her cottage. Over the course of their conversation, which moves back and forth through time to follow the primary characters of Shakespeare’s play—Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, Polonius, Horatio, and Ophelia herself, the eponymous daughter—the duplicitous nature of court life under the senior Hamlet and then Claudius is laid out. While Denmark starts a calamitous war with Norway, which is how Fortinbras enters the story, Ophelia and Horatio take note of the castle’s intrigues, discovering many secrets along the way and putting their free time to good use. It isn’t necessary to be familiar with Hamlet to enjoy Fritsch’s tale, but readers who know the Bard’s work will have a greater appreciation for the changes. Rather than a pitiable character driven mad by unrealized longing, this Ophelia is a strong, intelligent force who moves to improve her fate, as befitting the title character of the narrative. Purists may view these characterizations with distaste—no royal except for Fortinbras is portrayed in any way close to positively, for example, although Gertrude is given more agency here than in the play—but Fritsch deploys his changes with a sure hand, setting their behavior in a context that makes sense for the time. The narrative’s structure precludes suspense, but the story unfolds in a clear, straightforward fashion, with a solid grasp of where all the plot pieces are at any time. Much of the dialogue is rendered in an anachronistic fashion, with profanity that reads more 21st century than the period when the original play was written, which will occasionally jar readers. But the language gives the characters an immediacy and relatability that more classical portrayals sometimes lack and largely fits into the author’s feminist revamping.

Despite anachronistic language, this inventive retelling of Hamlet resonates through clear plotting and strong characterization.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9978829-7-1

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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