Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’ve never read The Tempest, but after having read this novel, I feel as if I have. It’s more than a retelling. It explores the original play, delving into it’s themes and characters and plots.
After losing his wife, and his 3 three year old daughter, Miranda, Felix Phillips is unfairly booted from his job. He abandons the life he knows and goes off to the middle of nowhere, where he lives in a shack alone. Except he isn’t alone because he carries the memory of his daughter with him. He judges time by how old she would be. He imagines her playing outside, he’s even, on occasion, heard her voice. He talks to her, teaches her things and to him, she is there, always. He grows bored of his new life and looks for something to do with his time. He ends up teaching a literacy program at a correctional facility. Each year the inmates in the class perform a play.
The Tempest in it’s original form is about a man named Prospero and his daughter Miranda who are stranded on an island. He is set on revenge and conjures up a storm to make his enemies believe that they too, are trapped on this island.
Once Felix finds out that the very people who booted him from his previous position will be coming to the prison to see the play, he knows that the inmates must preform The Tempest. He sees this as his time for revenge and sets to work, plotting against them, with the help of the inmates, of course.
I won’t tell you what happens exactly, but I will say that this book is a twisted read. It’s a book about a play, inside of a play, inside of a play. It would be an excellent companion novel for anyone reading the original play The Tempest. It explores the characters and their motives, and even what they could possibly be doing once the story is over.