Hamlet, A Novel

John Marsden

Hamlet, A Novel
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Hamlet, A Novel

John Marsden

Hamlet is bored and restless. His friend Horatio can’t work him out-but who can? His father has just died, and his mother has already remarried. He seems damaged by the sudden changes in his life. Or maybe he was always a little damaged. Or maybe he wasn’t. Then, on a still night, the ghost of Hamlet’s father comes walking, his long silver hair blowing wildly … This wonderful book, by one of Australia’s most loved and most read writers, takes Shakespeare’s famous play and makes it into a moving and full-blooded novel. John Marsden follows the contours of the original but powerfully re-imagines its characters and story lines, rather as Shakespeare treated his sources. We are aware not only of the strength of Marsden’s own writing but the sensitivity of his insight into Shakespeare. Hamlet, A Novel will be adored by adults whether young or old.

Review

Hamlet, the Danish prince, is brooding in the wake of his father’s death. His mother barely waited for the king to go cold before marrying Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, and their perfidious union is driving Hamlet mad. Not even the arresting Ophelia can console him. The new regime simmers until the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father visits the young prince, calling on him to avenge his death. Then we watch the kingdom unravel. Marsden’s bold and playful novel beautifully captures the teasing innuendo, the restlessness and the maddening frustration of the classic tale.

Staying close to Shakespeare’s play, Marsden only detours to condense the plot in parts, make a playful nod to the Bard or delve further into these intriguing characters. We find Hamlet is his ever-hesitant self, but Ophelia is hungry for sexual discovery, and Horatio quite adores the beautiful young prince. Although we sometimes feel at risk of slipping into the modern day, Marsden breathes new life into the characters of this accessible read and will thus be forever loved by high-school students everywhere.

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