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Library Journal Review
In the fourth-and most entertaining-of the updated-by-famous-contemporary-authors "Hogarth Shakespeare" series, which also includes Jeannette Winterson's The Gap of Time, Howard Jacobson's Shylock Is My Name, and Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl, The Tempest gets reset to an Ontario theater festival and a correctional facility. Atwood (Oryx and Crake) brilliantly transforms the Bard's tale of lost power and exile into a multimedia production of backstage intrigue and creative revenge. Felix (Prospero) is the lauded artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival (think Canada's famed Stratford Festival), but his blind trust in his partner Tony (Antonio) allows the "Machiavellian foot-licker" to usurp Felix's position. Banished from his dramatic kingdom, Felix retreats to a hovel where his dead daughter Miranda is his only (magical) company. He finally ventures out to teach literacy at a local prison, where surprisingly talented inmates will stage-via big-screen technical machinations-The Tempest. Convenient paths toward revenge and restoration are revealed. Narrator R.H. Thomson is perfectly cast, with his round Canadian vowels, infectious energy, and diverse vocal adaptations; he's even convincing as a beatbox rapper. VERDICT For the inventive cursing alone (17th-century vintage only), this Tempest should find favor with most literary audiences, including YA readers; AP English students might be especially grateful. ("The play's final rendering might be a bit over the top, but the narrative as a whole is so inventive, heartfelt, and swiftly rendered as to expunge any doubts. Highly recommended": LJ 9/1/16 starred review of the Hogarth hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian -BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In The Tempest, Prospero is not just exiled king, magician, and father, he's an impresario staging multiple shows: the storm that strands his enemies on the island; his pretended disdain for Ferdinand, whom he intends for his daughter, Miranda; the play within the play; and, some critics argue, the play itself. In this, the fourth Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation, Atwood underscores these elements by making her Prospero a prominent theater festival director. After being done out of his job by a scheming underling, Felix goes off-grid, teaching literacy and theater to prisoners and grieving a lost daughter. When he learns that the man who took his job, now a political bigwig, will attend the next production, he sees his chance: in this Tempest, it won't just be Prospero who gets revenge. Former diva Felix is a sly and inventive director and teacher who listens to his cast's input, and his efforts to shape the play and his plot make for compelling reading. If, at the end, things tie up a little too neatly, the same might be said of the original, and Atwood's canny remix offers multiple pleasures: seeing the inmates' takes on their characters, watching Felix make use of the limited resources the prison affords (legal and less so), and marveling at the ways she changes, updates, and parallels the play's magic, grief, vengeance, and showmanship. 125,000-copy announced first printing. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Atwood (The Heart Goes Last, 2015) presents a bravura hall-of-mirrors contribution to the delectable Hogarth Shakespeare project in which novelists reimagine Shakespeare's plays. Felix, the famously over-the-top artistic director of a prestigious Canadian theater festival, is forced out by his conspiring assistant just as he's about to produce The Tempest, which he hoped would help him endure his grief over the death of his young daughter, Miranda. Instead this would-be Prospero exiles himself in the countryside in a veritable hovel for 12 lunatic years, sustained by an avidly imagined spirit daughter and dreams of revenge. A teaching position at a prison breaks the spell. As he channels his theatrical genius into inspiring inmates to create wily, streetwise versions of Shakespeare, he slowly steers them toward The Tempest as part of an audacious plan to finally secure his own personal justice. Atwood positively frolics in this rambunctiously plotted and detailed enactment of how relevant Shakespeare can be for a talented troupe behind bars. Supremely sagacious, funny, compassionate, and caustic, Atwood presents a reverberating play-within-a-play within a novel.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Despite its title, this novelization of The Tempest explores the perspective not of Caliban, the enslaved witchs son, but of Prospero, his magician master.The latest in The Hogarth Press series of Shakespeare retellings is Atwood's (The Heart Goes Last, 2015, etc.) take on tyranny, betrayal, and art. In dystopias such as The Handmaids Tale (1985), the feminist master of literary science fiction explored the fate of the oppressed, but here she focuses instead on the power of an artist to reimagine his fate. Her Prospero, the actor/impresario Felix Phillips, has spent too many years ignoring office politics so he can concentrate on the things that really mattered, such as his perceptive script notes and his cutting-edge lighting schemes and the exact timing of the showers of glitter confetti of which he has made such genius use. As a result, hes been ousted as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his scheming second-in-command, Tony Price (Antonio), and the Chair of the Board, Lonnie Gordon (Gonzalo). Fleeing the scene of his betrayal, Felix changes his name to Mr. Duke and finds refuge in the Literacy Through Literature program at the Fletcher County Correctional Institute, a job he agrees to take only if hes allowed to direct the inmates in Shakespeare plays. There he plots revenge, which unfolds when Tony, now Minister of Heritage in the Canadian government, along with Lonnie and assorted other dignitaries, makes a photo-op visit to see Felixs production ofwhat else?The Tempest. Once Felix has his enemies isolated in his dominion, he directs his spritesthe inmate actorsto bewitch, drug, and humiliate them, exposing their treachery. The plots self-referential layers recall Prosperos famous air, thin air speech about actors. But despite this clever construction and a few genuinely moving moments involving Felixs dead daughter, Miranda, who died of meningitis as a toddler and whose spirit hovers through the story Ariel-fashion, the bulk of the novel can feel like spending some 300 pages in a high school English class. The inmate-actors seem more like puppets than people; oddly, the most forgettable is the eponymous Caliban-counterpart. Deliberate and carefully built, this novel rarely pulls off true theaters magic of transforming glitter confetti into fairy dust. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.