Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If You Like Shakespeare

And if you like romance and suspense, then you might be interested in this book:
Ophelia by Lisa Klein tells her story.  And it was beautifully done.

I picked this book up from the library on Monday (wait, that was yesterday) and I finished it about a half hour ago.  You should see my house . . . It's labeled as young adult fiction but I would put it in the upper teens, true young adult realm -- not the "tweeners."

Quick synopsis: Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, a man who spends his life scheming on how to get into the castle and the good graces of the king.  This puts Ophelia in Elsinore at a young age where she is trained up as a lady's maid to the queen and falls in love with Hamlet -- first as a girl, then as a young woman.  Hamlet returns that love, but then of course his own tragedy unfolds.  
The twist?  Klein's Ophelia doesn't actually die.  Her death is a ruse very much in the vein of Romeo and Juliet (I think Shakespeare would approve) and she escapes in fear for her life to France where she takes refuge in a convent and seeks to find solace after the tragedy that she has experienced -- the death of her father, brother, and Hamlet.  I don't want to give away the ending but it is good.  Both a good read and a happy ending.

Synopsis aside, I've been thinking about this book nonstop.  Ophelia is a complex, but real character and I love Klein's portrayal of her.  She is independent and smart but not so much that you think it unrealistic for the 16th century.  She loves Hamlet and is somewhat ruled by him but also seeks to sway him from his revenge.  Her time in the convent did drag a little, but her struggles with herself felt so genuine.  Part of her healing in the convent is discovering who she is for herself.  And when she finds herself, then she is truly happy.

Please note, there is some sexual content.  Nothing graphic (I was so glad!!), instead it was more referential to how things work in the castle (soldiers and serving maids, etc.) and Ophelia spends a bit of time deciphering for herself what love is.  It was more romantic than romance though, which I've always preferred.  

I really thought that Klein stayed so true to Shakespeare's Hamlet while at the same time giving Ophelia her own story wonderfully told.  I might even have to go back and read the play to refresh myself on the original character.
And I just love this John William Waterhouse depiction.