I’m not very good at this whole “Goals and Resolutions” business. In fact, reading 52 books in a year may very well be the only resolution I’ve ever kept in full. Pitiful, isn’t it? Point in case: not three days ago I posted that I wanted to start blogging 6 days a week, and here I am going 1 3/4ths days without so much as a picture posted on here. Oh well. I got rather caught up in 1: reading, and 2: turning our apartment into a Winter Wonderland. But that’s a story for another day.
Wednesday’s book was Ophelia by Lisa Klein.
I sped through this book almost as quickly as I did The Hunger Games, though they could not be more different. Reading like historical fiction in the same vein as Phillipa Gregory, and being one part suspense and intrigue, one part romance, and one part tragedy, Ophelia is every wonderful thing you suspect upon reading the title.
Ophelia is a rough and tumble village girl when her father moves her and her brother, Laertes, to the court of the King of Denmark. Though she is of humble birth, Ophelia finds favor with the queen, Gertrude, and begins her new life as a lady in waiting.
But Ophelia is different from the other courtiers, preferring the company of the woods to stuffy castle life, and a good book to the latest gossip. Soon she catches the eye of Gertrude’s son, Prince Hamlet, and the two begin a secret courtship, falling deeply in love, and marrying secretly just days after Hamlet’s father, the king, has been murdered.
From here, most of us think we know the story: how Hamlet is driven mad after being visited by his father’s ghost and promising to avenge him; how Ophelia, overcome with grief at the change in her lover, drowns herself; and how everyone, from Claudius, the kings usurping brother and Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, to Gertrude and Hamelt, dies in the last scene, the whole court having been overcome with the madness of revenge.
But what if that’s not the whole story? What if Ophelia didn’t drown? And what if she were the only person at court who really knew the whole story?
That is where Klein takes us, to the hidden underbelly of Shakespeare’s masterpiece where perhaps a different ending is found, one no less tragic but more hopeful, one where new life springs out of the soil of tragedy.
If you have never read Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, you will want to do so before reading this novel. (It’s my favorite of Shakespeare’s works, so I hope you enjoy it!) Once you’ve done that, go out and find this fantastic piece of fiction!
I really enjoyed this book, which was well written, imaginative, and extremely satisfying for anyone who ever wished there was more to be said for poor Ophelia and her hopeless love affair. (I am not one of those modern cynics who thinks every love story should be “realistic”. I hate it when a great love story doesn’t work out! And I relish it when an author says, “Fie upon modern cynicism! My lovers will live happily ever after!” Anyway, what kind of sad world would we live in if the only realistic love was the one that was doomed to failure?) Also, Klein is obviously knowledgable in the realm of Elizabethan culture and history, which makes this story all the more believable. The last third of the book, after Ophelia flees Denmark, started to get a little groggy, but the final chapter makes wading through totally worth it.
And that, kids, is all she wrote. I shall return tomorrow to tell you all about our Christmas tree adventures, and my last two days of reading. Here’s a little sneak peek for you: