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Hamlet Hardcover – August 11, 2009
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Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—The story of Hamlet seems tailor-made for YA literature; it includes angst, unrequited love, drama, obsession, family issues, and self-doubt. In turning Shakespeare's play into a novel, Marsden has made it very accessible. The book is brief and the story moves quickly. Hamlet's indecision does not stall the action, but rather drives the narrative—readers wonder what, if anything, he will do. The setting is contemporary, but feels timeless. Marsden stays true to Shakespeare's text, while modernizing the dialogue. He makes the prince a sympathetic teen who is struggling with his hormones, his grief, and the fact that his uncle is now his stepfather. He is lonely, not only because of his royalty, but also because his drive to avenge his father has caused him to commit murder. Hamlet wants to be a man, but he's not sure if he's quite ready. This is a wonderful treatment of the play: engaging, gripping, dark, and lovely.—Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
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"John Marsden has done what a legion of educators, my parents, a great number of my more literate friends and my read-anything-you-can-get-your-hands-on grandmother failed to do. He has made me, for one glorious moment, love Shakespeare. Marsden's version of HAMLET is smart, tough, lyrical, thoroughly readable and uncompromisingly engaging. Back off, Mrs. Phelps (my high school English teacher). I now get HAMLET." - Chris Crutcher — Quote
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Top Customer Reviews
The book tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The plot is there and all the major points are present. The author uses some of the original language while modernizing it yet keeping all the most famous quotes such as "to be or not to be". So to read this book one does get the plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet without having to read or experience the original. But I was not impressed with this retelling at all.
The darkness, brooding atmosphere of the original is missing. The time period is vague, it could be the recent past or timeless ages past. But most of all the portrayals of Hamlet and Ophelia are nothing as they are in the original. Ophelia is shown as nothing but a wanton sex-craving girl who dreams of nothing but mentally luring Hamlet to come to her. Her suicide is all matter of fact and hardly anyone seems to even care, least of all Hamlet who has much larger problems to deal with. Of course, as in the play, major plot point, it is Ophelia's brother who is upset at her death.
My greatest joy in the original plot of Hamlet is the question of his sanity. The movie starring Kenneth Branagh is a fabulous adaptation portraying this. Has Hamlet really gone insane or is he only pretending? This whole issue has been removed from Marsden's version. People around Hamlet speak of his madness as they would today of a teenager's rebellious stage. Hamlet himself speaks of his madness as if it were a cold. This version lacks passion and the intricacies of the original plot. And on top of all that, the appearance of Hamlet's father's ghost is a very brief single episode which, of course, plants the seed of revenge but is hardly an experience that could cause madness in anyone. All to say this is rather boring if you already know the plot of Hamlet and I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction; there must be something better out there. Not recommended.
Hamlet still faces issues the original author set for him (an unfaithful mother, a murderous uncle, the hauntingly attractive Ophelia), but the reader is able to delve more deeply into the characters as they are brought to life by Marsden's beautiful prose.
Since this is a modern version, it does have a few instances of cursing as well as some sexual innuendo, so I feel it would be better suited to older teens and adults.
Thanks to a fantastic high school English teacher, I never had trouble understanding HAMLET, but I enjoyed reading Marsden's version and seeing a more modern twist on the story.
Reviewed by: Joan Stradling