Showing posts with label Retellings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retellings. Show all posts

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  41,217 Ratings  ·  22,209 Reviews
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood download or read it online for free
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?

“You’re clear, Mr. Duke.” Grins from both of them. What could Felix possibly be suspected of smuggling, a harmless old thespian like him? It’s the words that should concern you, he thinks at them. That’s the real danger. Words don’t show up on scanners.”

“Miranda nods, because she knows that to be true: noble people don't do things for the money, they simply have money, and that's what allows they to be noble. They don't really have to think about it much; they sprout benevolent acts the way trees sprout leaves.”


The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare play. I’ve read it dozens of times and seen various versions of it over the years. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen it live yet. One day I’ll see it live at the globe. There’s so much to take from this play, and Atwood’s interpretation completely blew my mind. The way she took one of the lines made me consider this in a completely new light!

“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”

Caliban, the seed of the Hag, could be Prospero’s son? How interesting, I’ve never even considered this before! There’s a very convincing, though of course inconclusive, argument made by one of the characters in here to suggest this.

But I digress. This is far from the main point. This book is about a man called Felix, and he was the artistic director of a major theatre house until his assistant betrayed him and orchestrated a coup leaving Felix stranded in isolation. Sound familiar? Felix is our Prospero and he wants some revenge. So many years after he is disgraced he gets his opportunity. He stages his own version of The Tempest, using prison inmates that he teaches, to get back at those that wronged him. It is marvellously clever. He takes on the role of Prospero in the play, and he also becomes him in his real life.

What does this tell us about the story? Shakespeare wrote some truly brilliant narratives, and they really are timeless. Here one has been used in a modern setting to tell us a story that has happened and will happen again. I hesitate to generalise, but one thing I’ve learnt from reading a fair bit of Shakespeare is that his characters are real. They could be real. They are easily to identify with and the stories they have are easily seen in later works and in people’s actual lives. The point is Shakespeare was a very perceptive man, across his body of work he captured much of the human condition.

So Atwood has recreated The Tempest here and it’s beautiful. She has crafted all the themes of the Tempest into the form of this man’s life. And, ironically, he knows he is living The Tempest. He starts to actually become like Prospero. He becomes unhinged and can only taste that singular bitter pill known as revenge; it is literally all that animates him and it almost drives him too far into the depths of obsessive despair, though he has the power to come back. We all do. Very much in the tradition of the play, Felix comes back to himself. This really is a great piece of writing.

I struggled with my rating for this. This is an exceptional book, but I don’t consider it in the same esteem as other books I’ve rated five stars. It was a difficult call, so I gave it five stars but really consider it a 4.75.
After Felix, artistic director, of the Makeshiweg Festival, gets weaseled out of his job by Tony, his under-cutting 'right-hand-man' ...he moves off grid
into a hillside dwelling - an old rustic small shack with cobwebs, a smelly outhouse, surrounded by weeds. He tidied up the inside space --but
"despite his pathetic attempts at domesticity, he slept restlessly and woke often".

Both Felix's wife and child are deceased. He lived with grief, yet when Felix was the artistic director of the very reputable theatre company, which slime ball Tony is now, it was Felix's memory of his 3 year old daughter, Miranda, who had recently died of meningitis, that gave him purpose in directing
"The Tempest". ---which he never got to finish - being rushed out quickly. Felix has disappeared quite successfully. The sorrow of the loss of his daughter is intensifying. He'd tries to stay busy...goes to the library, buys something at the hardware store just to hear the sound of an ordinary human voice.
Felix begins to wonder what's happening to him.
"Had he begun to shamble? Was he regarded as a harmless local eccentric? Was he subject of tittle-tattle, or did anyone notice him at all? Did he even care?"
"The silence began to get to him. Not silence exactly. The bird songs, the chirping chirping of the crickets, the wind in the trees. The flies, buzzing so contrapuntally in his outhouse. Melodious. Soothing."

So, what did Felix want? What did he care about? What was his purpose now?
After spending reprehensible amounts of time sitting in the shade in an old chair he got from a garage sale staring into space....
He's clear he needs a focus and purpose. Eventually he concluded there were two things left for him to do - "two projects that could still hold satisfaction".
"First, he needed to get his, 'TEMPEST' back. He had to stage it, somehow, somewhere. His reasons were beyond theatrical; they had nothing to do with his reputation, his career – –none of that. Quite simply, his Miranda must be released from her glass coffin; she must be given a life".
"Second, he wanted revenge. He longed for it. He daydreamed about it. Tony and Sal must suffer. His present woeful situation was their doing, or a lot of it was. They treated him shabbily".

He realizes that as Felix Phillips - he's a washed up 'has-been' ....but as Mr. Duke, he might have a chance.
It's been 12 years since he worked for Makeshiweg. His new stage takes place inside a
prison:."The Fletcher County Correctional Institute in Ontario".
A low profile job- engaging with people -getting back in the real world: BRILLIANT!
Nothing better to help mend grief and grievances than to bring Shakespeare to prisoners! WHAT's NOT TO LOVE? The job came his way through a teacher in the
Literacy Through Literature program.

The woman who hired Felix was worried - worried that the prisoners would not be able to handle Shakespeare, given that many of them could barely read. Felix's argument was that Shakespeare's actors were journeyman, and bricklayers, and that they never read whole plays themselves. They memorize their lines.
"I believe in hands-on", said Felix as authoritatively as he could".
"Hands-on what?" said Estelle, truly alarmed now. "you have to respect your personal space, you're not allowed to..."
"We'll be performing", said Felix.
"That's what I mean. We'll enacting the plays". They'll do assignments and write essays
and all that". I'll mark those. I suppose that's what's required".
"Estelle smiled. "you're very idealistic" she said "Essays?" I really..."
"Pieces of prose," said Felix. "About which ever play we're doing."
"You really think so?" said Estelle
"You could get them to do that?"
"Give me three weeks", said Felix".

Once inside the prison -- this story is TERRIFIC!!! Flex and the inmates enact modernized versions of Shakespeare, including 'The Tempest". At times hilarious--often charming....and NO PROFANITY ...NO SWEARING!!! ( well, these prisoners are criminals, so it's not a perfect science). They loose points if they use swear words not used in the script. The can't swear at any time if they are in discussion about the characters or themes of the play either - or points Off!!
"Back to the drawing board", SnakeEye adds.
"Suck it up, dickhead". says Anne-Marie, or you can make your own fuckin' goddesses plus no cookies".
Chuckles. "Swearing! Swearing! Points off"! says Leggs"

This book becomes a play within a play--Felix is out for revenge staging a play....
just as 'The Tempest', is about a man ( Propero), staging a play for revenge.
As I was expecting...but was still found inspiring, Felix has a positive effect on the prisoners.

Moving Along:
....Slime Ball Tony is now a politician in Canada and he and other VIPs
will be coming to see a video taped show of 'Mr. Duke's inmate project with intentions of doing away with the "Literacy Through Literature" program".
Estelle knows Mr. Duke is Felix Phillips....( she has kept Felix's secret for years and even added support of him with her own camouflage). As far as everyone else -to
Distinguished visitors-- Dr. Duke is just a broken down old geezer of a failed teacher.
Tony is going to have a rude awakening.
Let the revenge begin......or Felix might say he is simply "balancing the scales".

Wonderful - fun - funny - touching ( teary-eye at the very end) --Really touching!

A contemporary retelling of “The Tempest”, Atwood’s novel is part of Hogarth Shakespeare Series that celebrates the Bard’s 400th anniversary and, in my humble opinion, it more than succeeds in preserving his timeless, thought-provoking genius.
Instead of narrowing down the complexities of the original play, Atwood embraces them all, adding further layers of ambiguity that open up multiple levels of understanding of the plot and subplots, creating a play within a play in a Russian doll narrative structure.

Like in Shakespeare’s play, the shifting forces between forms of freedom and imprisonment are at the core of the story. Accordingly, Atwood sets the action in the Fletcher County Correctional Institute, an actual prison in Canada where a motley array of criminals play the parts of the famous characters directed by Felix Phillips, our Prospero and former acclaimed theatre director. Betrayed by his financial manager Tony, Felix has to wait for twelve years before he is ready to scheme a revenge that will harbor hilarious situations and heart-breaking moments seducing all kind of audiences, from the most skeptical to the less demanding reader.

Irreverently humorous, eclectic, and subtly mordant about the roles of institutions and politicians on prison policies and social reintegration, Atwood is at her best weaving wit, depth and teasing in this adaptation. The Bard’s fierce literacy blends naturally with the slang, modern language used by the inmates with a touch of impish glee that is most sparkling when Felix persuades the actors to use only curse words that are present in the original text in exchange for smuggled cigarettes. Improbable expressions like “Scurvy awesome”, “Way to red plague go” or “What the pied ninny is this” ensue, making all the convicts not only endearing but also irresistibly funny. An inventive tribute to the Bard that I bet he would have approved of.

In spite of the fast-paced, almost casual style of Atwood’s storytelling and the light-hearted teasing between the somewhat clichéd cast of characters nothing is only one way in “Hag-Seed”. Everything comes in layers of double and triple meaning. Felix is both victim and oppressor, masterful playwright and prisoner of his own text; the actors are potentially dangerous criminals but also dissenters in a corrupt, unfair system. The play itself, like the island or the prison, goes back and forth between illusion and truth, vengeance and forgiveness, confinement and liberating force, like a shifting reflection on a mirror that splits up the light rays into a prismatic rainbow.

The last chapters of the novel are climatic, but they also invite the reader to careful meditation. Atwood seems to be asking whether we can ever get free from the inner prisons we build for ourselves. Grief for his lost baby daughter shackles Felix for twelve years, but her Ariel-like spirit whispers to him amidst the vast oceans of time and possibility, making the implausible more real than reality itself. She seems to say that if you can suspend disbelief and allow the sprites and the goblins eavesdrop into your secret hopes and fears, the poison might slowly turn into sweet wine. But until when?
What ultimately differentiates the villain from the hero is the courage to let go of those you retain at your side, to gather enough stamina to set them free, to send them back to the elements, to the magic of timeless limbo; and bid them a well-meant farewell from our lonely shores, and keep on walking at a steady pace towards the place we belong.
This is the second of this series of Shakespeare rewrites that I have read and it was so good! It shows how a really good, quality writer like Margaret Atwood can successfully turn her hand to anything.
Of course her writing is always beautiful, whatever the topic, but in this book she was amazing in her originality. By the time her main character, Mr Duke, had written his version of The Tempest I was longing to be able to go and see it performed. Her interpretation and ideas were just brilliant.
It is a long time since I have read or seen The Tempest performed so some of Atwood's nuances and parallels maybe passed me by, but I noticed enough to make it a totally entertaining and enjoyable read.
This book was fan-freaking-tastic. I adored it.

I have such immense respect for Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid's Tale is right up there with other dystopian classics like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 in its scope of influence. But that’s the only book of hers that I’ve read all the way through, and that particular book was assigned for a class. I liked it, but it was homework, which always skews my enjoyment level a bit. There are other books by Atwood that I’ve picked up, but I could never get into them. But Hag-Seed was so small. Surely I could get through that one, right?

To prepare for reading it, I assigned myself some homework; reread The Tempest, the Shakespearean play that Hag-Seed retells. And reading it definitely felt like homework. But I’m so glad that I read it, because there was a richness to Hag-Seed that I would have missed without the play fresh in my mind. Do you have to read The Tempest to enjoy Hag-Seed? Nope! There’s a short summary of the play in the back of Atwood’s book, for anyone who isn’t familiar.

So, what did I think of Hag-Seed? I adored it. Five-star reviews are usually reserved for my favorites, books that I will read again and again, but I can’t find enough fault with this book to bump it down to four stars. I was hesitant about it when I picked it up and figured that, if I did enjoy the book, it would be in the same way that I enjoy a classic or a popular novel. That I would (hopefully) like it and feel that I had checked something off of a to-do list. But I should have had more faith in Atwood. Hag-Seed was fabulous! The Tempest is a play-within-a-play, and Hag-Seed added another layer of “within-a-play” to that. Felix was pitiable in the opening chapters of the book, but he wasn’t likable. At all. His growth throughout the story was wonderful to follow. Hag-Seed was deep, and moving, and funny. And that's all I'll say, so as not to spoil it for anyone. I was immensely entertained, and I highly recommend it!
This is a retelling of a Shakespearean play I've never read, and it's by Margaret Atwood whom I believe to be one of the finest story tellers. I had a feeling I was going to love this, and I did.
"The Tempest" is retold through Felix who takes on the job of teaching prisoners how to read Shakespeare and how to play him. Felix has a secret wish for revenge, though, which serves as his main motivation for doing this exact play with the prisoners.
It was interesting to see how Atwood mixes two completely different worlds: a prison and Shakespeare. However, Shakespeare was after all for everyone - the poor and the noble visited his Globe theatre because Shakespeare appealed to everyone.
What Atwood does beautifully is that she tells the story of The Tempest through Felix' and the prisoners' lives. Felix has experienced loss and wishes for revenge; in other words, his life has been through quite a tempest.
In the end, Atwood wraps up everything through adressing the questions that the original play leaves unanswered. This was one of the weaker parts, in my eyes, because I wanted to read more about the characters and not their predictions for possible answers. The reenactment of the play was also somewhat to the silly side, but overall I was impressed with how Atwood takes on this retelling and makes it absorbing and intriguing. I'm a fan!
“The island is a theatre. Prospero is a director. He’s putting on a play, within which there’s another play. If his magic holds and his play is successful, he’ll get his heart’s desire. But if he fails…”

This is a marvelous re-telling of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” It is a tale of prisons within prisons, of prisoners who do not realize they’re imprisoned, of vengeance and revenge. The most beautiful part of this book is that it is prisoners who are putting on the play. Their thoughts on the characters, plot and imagined future outcomes are all explored. Margaret Atwood’s retelling, in effect, goes deeper than the original. I, as the reader, was left amazed at how well all the intricacies of plot worked out to mirror the original work in such a way that it actually took the plot further, creating a doubling effect: a play within a play (maybe within another play). It feels genius as you read it, and further intensifies the prisons within prisons theme.

This is fourth installment of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, in which excellent writers are tackling retellings of Shakespeare’s literature. “The Tempest” is the last written work of William Shakespeare, written in 1610-1611. I plan to re-read “The Tempest” and rewrite this review (or at least rethink it). I am that inspired by this novel.

There were a couple fairly major departures from the novel. The largest being that, Miranda, Felix’s daughter in Atwood’s version has died at the age of 3, however Felix imagines he still sees her and she is there with him until the end of the novel when he is able to release her. I actually think this brings an additional element of fantasy to the novel, a hint of madness to the sorcerer. She actually becomes entwined into the role of the fairy as enacted in the prison. It also allows for another level of imprisonment.

This version does not take place on an island, but Felix (Prospero) banishes himself to a remote area living in a shack with landlords that maybe never were. It is all very mysterious. He lives in seclusion for twelve years prior to taking the job at the prison where through a literacy program he and the inmates re-enact Shakespeare plays. It is here at the correctional facility that “The Tempest” is re-enacted in more ways than one with the outcome that Felix desires, the overthrowing of Antonio who had taken away his theater directorship.

The work that Felix does at the correctional facility feels magical. The relationship he develops with the inmates and the enthusiasm and interest they show for working on the plays seems incredible. As quoted from Felix within the novel, “Maybe the island really is magic. Maybe it’s a kind of mirror: each one sees in it a reflection of his inner self. Maybe it brings out who you really are. Maybe it’s a place where you’re supposed to learn something. But what is each one of these people supposed to learn? And do they learn it?” This seems to be exactly what is happening within Felix’s theater in the prison.

This is a novel full of modern day wit, whimsy, vigor. Margaret Atwood infuses rap, dance, old world swearing, and much self discovery into the prisoner’s re-enactment. It is super fun to read, yet has its dark melancholic side in true Atwood form, and can be dissected in so many ways. The prisoners each have their own interpretations of the characters and their expected outcomes, which is true of all great literature. I highly recommend this to Shakespeare fans or just fans of great literature! This is Atwood at her best!

Christina Henry - Lost Boy, Free Kindle

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.
Peter lies. 
Lost Boy - Christina Henry download free kindle
After Christina Henry’s masterful retelling of Alice in Wonderland, she brings her talent to J.M. Barres’ story of Peter Pan, subverting the tale into a darker frame as we see Peter Pan through the eyes of his greatest enemy and former best friend…Captain Hook.
“Peter will say I’m a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. But I told you already. Peter lies. This is what really happened.”
Jamie, the narrator of the story, is one of the first Lost Boys and Peter Pan’s best friend.  Though he looks to be between eight and twelve, he is in reality 100 plus years old and he has slowly grown disillusioned with his endless childhood and the burdens placed on him by Peter’s callousness, irresponsibility, and perpetually need for adoration.
“I had been with Peter longer than I’d been in the Other Place, longer than I could count, anyway.” 
Jamie assumes responsibility for the boys Peter brings over from the Other Place though Peter insults him by frequently comparing him to the dreaded grown up for babying READ MORE