Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ophelia by Lisa Klein

This novel is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet told from Ophelia's point of view. While my comprehension of Hamlet is a bit rusty, I was disappointed in this novel because of the liberties it took with the play. The author's note said she wanted to create a stronger character - which she did - but Ophelia in the play always just seemed like a weak, love sick girl, unable to handle Hamlet's "madness." The novel details the courtship between Hamlet and Ophelia, very much done in secret, as well as their secret marriage right before Hamlet sees the ghost of his father. Their newlywed bliss is then shattered as he becomes obsessed with seeking revenge. His obsession and subsequent "madness" leads him to turn against her and destroy her happiness. Ophelia is very calculating and feels that if her marriage to Hamlet is discovered that she'll be in grave danger and fakes her death in order to disappear. That's more or less where the connections with the play end. After her "death" the story continues where she ends up in a convent seeking sanctuary. At the convent she learns of Hamlet's death but stays there particularly because she's pregnant. With her formed friendships and desire to help the Sisters with her knowledge of potions and herbs, Ophelia stays at the convent until she meets again with Horatio (Hamlet's friend and her co-conspirator) and has her "happily ever after."

I wasn't extremely happy with this book because of the liberties it took with the original play. I thought that this would just give explanation to why she killed herself, but Ophelia was too strong of a character and has too much insider information. True her sudden knowledge (like the discovery of proof the Claudius killed the king) might have been meant to connect back with the play since Ophelia was a secondary character, but it became too picture perfect. At the same time, the secret marriage of Ophelia and Hamlet, not to mention her pregnancy, made her story too much of a fairy tale to satisfy Shakespeare. I really felt as if the fake death threw it over the edge. It was too much and unrealistic. It didn't feel right to change the story that much. Once she escaped from Denmark, I felt the story had reached its end, but then there was the convent saga which did not hold my interest. It was a whole new set of characters I had to connect with and after the disappointment with the play interpretation, I found the last 100 pages a struggle to finish. The author wanted Ophelia to be a character that, unfortunately, she wasn't if you hold to Shakespeare's presentation. Maybe I'm just too loyal to the original, but this novel's interpretation seemed too perfect to be seen as a good interpretation.

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