Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shakespeare, Remixed

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray
Ophelia is just like any other teenage girl, who just happens to be in an on again, off again romance with the Prince of Denmark.  Falling for Hamlet is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet told from Ophelia’s point of view. Told in three parallel stories; Ophelia tells you what really happened, what she tells the public and what the government thinks happened. After the King’s death, Hamlet descends into madness, convinced that it was not natural causes that killed his father. As Hamlet spirals deeper out of control, Ophelia is torn between duty to herself and her family and her love of Hamlet.
Ray, Michelle. Falling for Hamlet. New York: Poppy, Hatchette Book Group, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-10162-2. (hardback). Ages 14+

Romeo’s Ex: Rosaline’s Story by Lisa Fielder
We all know the tragic tale of one Romeo and his Juliet. But while Romeo was falling in love with Juliet, there might have been more to the Capulet and Montague tale. Fielder takes the classic tale and uses the original plot as the side story to tell the story of Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline. Who wants nothing more than to be sworn off love and men so that she may focus on becoming a healer. Told from alternating points of view with Rosaline, Benvolio, Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo narrating the story in a combination of attempted Elizabethan and modern day English, with a few original verses from the play mixed in. With so many versions of Romeo and Juliet around, it was refreshing to read one that didn’t end in death.
Fielder, Lisa . Romeo’s Ex: Rosaline’s Story. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-7500-7. (hardback). Ages 12+

I enjoyed Falling for Hamlet much more than I enjoyed Romeo’s Ex, but I believe that if Fiedler was to update her story today, as a modern tale then it would have been much more interesting. What I did love was that she tried to update the Elizabethan English in such a way that it was easy to understand, and I really enjoyed the interspersing quotes from the play. Yes, it could have seemed silly, but since she followed the plot so closely, they provided nice reference points to the play. Unfortunately, there were just a few moments when I was left wondering, what on earth is she trying to do? No matter how hard an author tries, somethings are just not medically possible.
What I loved the most about Ray’s retelling is that she didn’t just take the story and retell it from a different point of view. She updated it to what it would be like if it happened today; with the paparazzi and the media, and the frenzy that follows the royal family. Those who are familiar with the original play will appreciate that Ray left the names the same. Having not read Hamlet before, I appreciated this because I was able to look up the story and compare it very quickly. A great story for a mother and daughter to share with each other! One thing I love to do is compare books with my mom, which is one of the reasons I am such an avid reader to this day. Her memory to remember stories and details, even from books she hasn't read since she was in high school amazes me. So when I handed her Falling for Hamlet, she was able to quickly give me a comparison. Who needs wikipedia when you have mom? I loved Ray's concept, and can't wait to see which stories she retells next.