Retelling Shakespeare’s plays with a contemporary audience in mind seems like a great way to introduce his classics to a whole new generation and Margaret Atwood does such a great job of doing this while staying true to the source material. I confess I’ve never read the original “Tempest; I have had a copy for years and it still looks as good as it did the day I acquired it. Therefore, this review is from a first timer to Shakespeare, as I seem to have forgotten any of his other works I read in the past.
Felix was a festival director who had his head so fully occupied with being creative, he failed to notice his slow but effective ousting by his trusted subordinate until it was too late. Felix who after losing his daughter had become obsessed with creating the ultimate production of “The Tempest” is devastated when his vision and hard work is tossed aside. He decides to send himself on exile: he assumes a used name, grows a beard, moves into an isolated rustic cabin managed by a shady family and spends the next 12 years with nothing but the ghost of his dead daughter, some light internet stalking and revenge fantasies to keep him company. At some point during his exile, Felix takes up a teaching position at the neighbourhood prison, where he teaches literature and makes video productions of Shakespeare’s greatest hits with his “actors”. This is enough to help him retain his sanity; until his enemies, now politicians, decide to assess the literacy program first hand by coming for Opening Night. Life has imitated Art so much that Felix can’t resist entertaining them with an interactive play on “The Tempest”.
Honestly, I didn’t read the blurb before requesting for this book. I can’t even tell you what I was thinking when I did, but I’m glad I was thinking it ‘cos this is the closest I have come to reading anything by Shakespeare in the last 10 years. And it was good.
I loved how the plot of “The Tempest” was slowly laid out through the rehearsals of the prison cast, which meant I was reading two books at a time. Well, kind of. And the cast were an interesting group of
criminals characters as well; I couldn’t keep up with their backstories or descriptions and they only came to life for me as the play progressed. It was also exciting as I realized the parallels between Felix’s story and the original play as we get to understand the protagonist’s attachment to “The Tempest”. Our villains are also noteworthy, even if they got little “screen time”; Felix’s description of them was enough. They were hilarious without turning comical and I was thrilled at how Felix’s revenge came together.
This was my first book by Margaret Atwood and I have to say she makes it look so easy. Her characters are alive, the story flows smoothly and is engaging and educative, and it really is a comedy in disguise. The only reason I didn’t finish this book at a go was: LIFE.
For teaching me how to curse in Shakespeare and getting me to this for days after finishing the book. It was that poxy good!!
I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and fair review
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published by: Crown Publishing
Date of Publication: October 11, 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Blogging For Books
When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.
Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?