Margaret Atwood has been on my ‘to read list’ for yonks! But alas, for some reason or the other, I never quite got round to reading any of her works – until recently, much to my absolute delight! Hag-Seed was by no means the book I wanted to start with when delving in to her many works. However, as soon as I read the blurb, I was intrigued and couldn’t resist swiping it off the shelf in a somewhat hurried fashion!
Hag-Seed follows the story of Felix, an artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, who is betrayed by his manipulative and cunning assistant. His production of ‘The Tempest’ is dropped, leaving Felix completely heartbroken. Exiled away, Felix starts to plot his very own revenge against those that have wronged him. With the help of the Burgess Correctional Institution, he has a chance to put his plan in motion but will it all come together in time for the opening night?
The narrative of the book was gripping right from the very start. Atwood’s style can be described as being simple but highly effective. The way ‘The Tempest’ had been re-imagined was absolutely incredible – from the outlandish costumes and characters to the rap songs. Following from this, the narrative weaves in explanations of the original ‘Tempest’ effortlessly, making the story enjoyable to those that are and aren’t familiar with the Shakespearian play alike.
The story started off slowly, but the pace soon picked up and sustained itself. Not at any point did the story drag or seem unnecessary. However, having said this, I was a smidge disappointed at the climax of the revenge. In one way, it felt a little rushed and therefore a little anti-climactic. It was as if something was missing – the relish of reading it wasn’t quite there.
“Suddenly revenge is so close he can actually taste it. It tastes like steak, rare.”
The flipping from the present to the past, back to the present was done skillfully. Snatches of wicked humour were scattered across the pages, increasing the enjoyment level of reading the book.
One of the most brilliant aspects of the book, perhaps due to its creative nature, was the last act – where each main character from the original play is taken in turn and is presented with their own ending. This in effect ties up any loose ends left by ‘The Tempest’. Not only were the endings plausible (always a bonus!), but also many were thought provoking and rather original.
Another aspect of the book that was amazingly written was the character of Felix. A complex character to say the least especially when it comes to his daughter, Miranda. His thoughts and feelings were laid out for the reader, making it easy to both sympathize and relate to him.
On the other hand, the criminals were not so well defined – in fact they seemed rather indistinguishable from each other and sort of meshed in to one. Their own personalities didn’t quite seem to come through, which was a tad frustrating at times.
Yet to counter that, it could be argued that they were all side characters in this story. Felix and his revenge was the main focus of this book, making it unnecessary to develop the characters of the criminals – essentially they were just pawns for Felix’s revenge.
Quite frankly, this book took me by surprise and I seemed to enjoy it more than I thought I would’ve. Pretty much everything was spot on, with only a couple of minor issues. The creativity and writing style were simply outstanding. In any case, I shall definitely be reading more of Atwood’s works in the near future.