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Ophelia Paperback – December 26, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her impressive first novel, Klein retells Hamlet, expanding on the romance between its hero and Ophelia, who narrates this version. Keeping true to the framework of the play, the heroine, now 16, reports the tragic events in the troubled Elsinore castle. When she first speaks to Hamlet, Ophelia is a 10-year-old ragged tomboy tagging along after her brother, Laertes. A year later, Ophelia is accepted into Queen Gertrude's court ("Becoming a lady, I learned, was not easy"), and she grows into a beautiful, rather outspoken young woman with an interest in herbs. Her quick wit attracts the prince's attention, and their Shakespearean-style banter will delight readers. Hamlet and Ophelia secretly become husband and wife, and on their wedding night, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears at the castle; Horatio, at the stroke of midnight, barges into the newlyweds' bedroom calling, "To the ramparts, Hamlet. It comes!" Readers familiar with the play will know that Hamlet's feigned madness to seek revenge eventually proves to be his undoing. As things rage out of control, Ophelia fears for her own safety ("My life... is worth no more than a beast's"). Klein smoothly weaves in lines from the play and keeps her characterizations true to the playwright's, even as she rounds out the back story. Teens need not be familiar with Shakespeare's original to enjoy this fresh take—with the added romance and a strong heroine at its center. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—Using Hamlet as the basis for her tale, Klein relates the familiar events from the play, with Ophelia as the focal point. Thus, readers see the social-climbing Polonius as a negligent father, the queenly Gertrude as a concerned and observant mentor, the bewildered Hamlet as a fervent lover, and Horatio as a loyal friend who loves Ophelia from afar. But the novel goes beyond the life of the play for, instead of dying, Ophelia secretly weds Hamlet, escapes Elsinore (taking refuge in a convent in France), bears Hamlet's son, and reunites romantically with Horatio to bring the story full circle. Easy to follow and moving at a rapid pace, the story introduces new characters who add depth to the tale. Klein sets the story in the Elizabethan era rather than in the medieval time frame of the original play; her detail-rich text conveys considerable information about courtly life, intrigue, and the societal mores of the times. She includes adapted versions of some of Shakespeare's best-known lines to keep the flavor of the Bard's work; however, the changes in the language may strike a discordant note with purists and with those who prefer the poetic text. Nonetheless, this is a successful and engaging story that is more thought-provoking than Lisa Fiedler's Dating Hamlet (Holt, 2002), as it deals with issues of justice more than revenge, with wholeness of character more than romance. It is sure to be popular with young women struggling with issues of honor, betrayal, and finding one's path.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 860L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; 1st edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599902281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599902289
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a lifelong reader and lover of words who said to myself one day, "Maybe I can write a novel." So in 2001 I sat down and began writing Ophelia, which was published in 2006. By that time I had completed a Ph.D., taught English literature as an assistant professor for nine years, married, had two sons, and finished two nonfiction books. Oh, and read more books than I can possibly recall. But one of my favorites growing up was Gone With the Wind, which I read seven times as a teenager. Thirty-odd years later, I wrote my own Civil War novel, Two Girls of Gettysburg. And the high-school parody of Macbeth that won our class first place in the homecoming skit competition eventually morphed into more sophisticated retellings of Shakespeare: Ophelia and Lady Macbeth's Daughter. I love doing research for my novels and retelling history and Shakespeare's plays from a fresh, female-centered perspective.
I live in Columbus, Ohio with my husband, two teenage sons, a dog and a cat.
You can visit my website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Fussy Guy on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Lisa Klein's Ophelia is a tightly-written, pacey and lively spin-off of Hamlet in novel form, as told from (you guessed it) Ophelia's perspective. The plot begins years before Hamlet's timeline and ends years after, allowing for Ophelia's character to be drawn out much more fully from Shakespeare's sketchy and puzzling portrayal.

Klein chose to set the novel not in the period of Hamlet's Denmark, but in the period of Shakespeare's writing of the play. Interwoven with the plot of Hamlet are allusions to a number of contemporary works, including Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, in addition to conceits from sonnets by (among others) Lady Mary Wroth, all against a backdrop of romance, conduct literature, hagiography and other genres for and about women.

The fact that Ophelia is a woman allows Klein to intersperse a range of historical detail appopriate to women, including negotiations with cultural requirements for chastity, obedience and silence and a rich tapestry of herbal lore (as suggested by Ophelia's preoccupation with flowers in Hamlet). The characters' language is also suggestive of early modern literary dialogue.

However, these scholarly elements are by no means overpowering: the novel walks a careful line, never losing track that it is first and foremost a modern romance intended for the enjoyment of a wide readership without specialist knowledge. Whether intentional or not, it's a story that's crying out for a film.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have read Hamlet. Yes, and I think Ophelia deserved better. Her husband mad, her life shattered -- kind of tragic, don't you think, after she died.

Ophelia provides a new story. Ophelia really didn't die. She faked her death and ran off to the convent of St. Emilion. And yes, she finds new love. :) Yay!

Ophelia is one of those stories I could read again and again and again! I feel like I know Hamlet, Horatio, Ophelia, Laertes, and Elnora. I realize how suffocating Elsinore Castle was. It makes me want to dig up Shakespearian tales and say, "What were you thinking? Ophelia is MUCH cooler than this!". Although not perfect, it's a great read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karissa Eckert on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Hamlet and I have always wondered what the rest of Ophelia's story is. When of saw this reimagining of Hamlet, from Ophelia's prospective, I was wary but interested. Unfortunately, while decently written, the story was just plain boring and at sometimes forced.

The story starts from Ophelia's point of view earlier than the play, back when the court of King Hamlet was a happy place. There is even a brief meeting with Yorick the jester. It seems okay, the author tries to stay true to the writing style of Hamlet but also tries to make it easily readable. This was okay and overall better than trying to mimic Shakespeare. Unfortunately the author forces in famous parts from the original play. She tries to put them in word for word and they seem strange and stilted in with the rest of the story. It is just plain odd.

The back history and Ophelia's life after where the original play ends seem kind of boring. I am sure that the author means Ophelia to seem spirited and rebellious. To me though Ophelia's story seems rather plain; Ophelia takes what seems to me to be a rather typical route of women that were shunned in that time period. There is no stretch of the imagination here. I wonder if that is meant to make the story more realistic or maybe more in keeping with the times? The tragedy of Hamlet is in itself fanciful so I don't understand why you wouldn't stay with that and make Ophelia have a more interesting part in it all.

Despite all the things I didn't like there were some things I did like. I did like that the author stayed true to the major plotline of Hamlet. I liked the glimpse of the court before King Hamlet's death. And, although it was not in keeping with a tragedy, I liked the hopeful ending.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on January 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ophelia is born in the year 1585 in the village of Elsinore. Her mother dies giving birth, and her father is distant and aloof, oftentimes absent from their home for days while seeking employment in the king's court. So Ophelia's older brother becomes her playmate and protector. They swim in the river, explore in the forest and run wild in the streets with other children. Their father does hire a tutor for Ophelia's brother, and though girls at this time usually are not educated, he gives his permission for Ophelia to learn as well, just to keep her out of trouble.

But life changes drastically when Ophelia turns eight. Her father finally gets a job working for King Hamlet, and the three of them move to Elsinore Castle.

Living at the Castle is so very different from their old life in the village. The castle is dark and drafty, yet filled with beautiful furniture and rugs, delicious food and drink, and people dressed in fancy clothes. Ophelia and her brother soon meet the king and queen at a banquet, along with their son, Prince Hamlet. Being around the same age, Ophelia's brother and the likable prince often engage in wrestling, archery and sword dueling. Hamlet even takes the time to tease starry-eyed Ophelia.

As Ophelia gets a little older, the queen takes notice and invites Ophelia to join her ladies-in-waiting. There Ophelia finally receives a bit of female guidance and learns to be a "proper lady." Ophelia could do without the endless hours of sewing, but she loves having access to books. In fact, when the queen finds out how well educated Ophelia is, she becomes one of the queen's favorites, spending hours reading aloud and sharing discussions with the queen.
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