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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

A play within a play. Margaret Atwood retells Shakespeare's Tempest in her new novel , Hag-Seed, and does a damn good job of entertaining us.

Hag-Seed is the fourth novel in the ambitious Hogarth Shakespere series, where authors attempt to retell the great classics with a modern twist. In the Tempest, Prospero, plans to restore the fortunes of his daughter by using magic and illusion. In Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood has assigned Prospero's character to Felix, who has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. It all happened because of Tony, the devious, twisted bastard, who worked for him. But Felix was naive, and perhaps too consumed by his own grief at the time, to notice that the evil-hearted Tony was planning to ambush his career. 

Blindsided and upset, he decided to escape as far away as possible from 
Makeshiweg. But, the opportunity for revenge presents itself when he finds himself a job teaching theatre in a prison. And just like that that dangerous kernel of revenge starts to grow and fester in him. He would reenact the Tempest. His Tempest. This one, he is convinced will be brilliant, one of the best things he'd ever done. What he really wanted was for his precious daughter Miranda to live again. 

Even though Felix's daughter Miranda died at the age of three, Felix believes he can see her, and as his obsession turns into reality, his mind too deceives him. This hint of madness makes the novel all the more interesting, and Margaret Atwood adds the voice and wit of a sorcerer to give the character layers of depth. Perhaps these qualities already existed in the original Felix, but with the complexity of the plot line, so too, intensifies the complexity of Felix's character. It's like an onion is being peeled slowly by slowly, allowing the audience to shed more and more tears as the play goes on. 

The tone is classic Atwood. The story is a wonderful reimagining of a madman who wants revenge, and goes to great lengths to get it. Margaret Atwood is a master at storytelling, and takes her time in retelling the Tempest, with twists and turns, fantasy, magic and emotional entanglement. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold. 

Hag-Seed is published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada

Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog:, as well as a lifestyle blog: T: @SukasaStyle) 

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  1. I've just started reading this - Felix has just talked himself into the position at the prison - and agree that it's very entertaining. The Tempest isn't a play that I remember as clearly as some others, so I have already read the summary at the end of the book, to more properly enjoy some of the parallels she's got going on: such fun!


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