Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review: A Wounded Name, by Dot Hutchison

If you are interested in a fairly accurate modern retelling of Hamlet, then A Wounded Name fits the bill!

Hamlet's castle, in this case, is a boarding school. The story is told from Ophelia's perspective, which gives it and interesting twist -- as well as a more paranormal feel since Ophelia sees all kinds of ghosts and spirits. One of these is her dead mother, who wants Ophelia to join her at the bottom of a lake where there is a hidden city waiting for them.

It's been a REALLY long time since I've read Hamlet, but it's a classic, and I know the story. I'm a little shaky on some of the details. But I don't remember this hidden underwater city being part of the plot of the original, and it was the part that I found confusing. I didn't see what it added to the story, other than reinforcing the fact that Ophelia is apparently crazy, or at least her family thinks so.

All of the major characters are here -- even using the same names, so it's very easy to follow the story. Hamlet is called "Dane" and his father is referred to as "Hamlet."

The writing is beautiful. Sometimes too beautiful. All of the major lines we had to memorize in high school are in this book, as well as some other quotes almost directly from Shakespeare. But, even Hutchison's own writing is eloquent. Sometimes maybe too eloquent.

While I enjoyed reliving the story of Hamlet, and the book really ramped up at the end after a pretty slow, meandering start, I still had some issues. Mainly with the sense of time and place. The writing is so close to Old English, that I had trouble remembering that we are in modern times. It doesn't help that NOTHING modern is referred to for quite a while. I found myself distracted from the story because I was trying to figure out approximately what year it was. A little ways in, it mentions "Fortune 500 Companies" so I knew we weren't too far in historical times. Later, a motorcycle and a Limousine are mentioned. Finally on page 96, a cell phone is referred to and on page 114, email.

I also couldn't picture this boarding school. I didn't even realize it was supposedly in the U.S. until very close to the end of the book. Someone gets sent to France, but we never get a sense of WHERE they are leaving from. There aren't many descriptions of the actual school and home that they live in, other than to say there are three floors.

I have trouble if I can't picture things when I'm reading. I need to see the characters within the setting -- both place and time. I really missed that in A Wounded Name and didn't really enjoy the story because of it. As a side note, the cover of the book is perfect -- it really conveys the feeling of the story. The title, however, I don't really understand.

Anyone who is interested in a Hamlet retelling will enjoy this straightforward take on a modern version with a few additional embellishments.

Published by Carolrhoda Books, September 1, 2013
Copy obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
 311 pages

Rating: 3/5

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  1. I tried reading this one but I had to DNF it because I couldn't get past the meandering and slow start. Sometimes I wonder if the retellings are just the writers appreciation/love of the story but I'm always looking for something new that adds to the original otherwise, why bother? I think I made the right decision to skip this one.

  2. The writing def sounds beautiful, but don't know about the slow beginning

  3. I agree with Brandi, you have made me really curious about the writing but if the other parts of the book are just so-so, I may skip this one. I also don't have a lot of patience for a slow start. Great review!


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