Let’s preface this by saying that I don’t really like Shakespeare.
Yes, sad to say it, but not a big fan of Shakespeare. What I mean by this is that I have never actually enjoyed any of his plays. Ever. I find the characters entirely flat and I have trouble rationalizing and justifying their actions. However, I always loved the analysis of Shakespeare that we did in high school. I loved exploring sort of the literary meaning behind his work, and that’s how Hamlet became my absolute favorite Shakespeare play.
On the other hand, I love retellings. I love seeing familiar plot points and characters dressed up in something different, and I love seeing what an author can do with a really familiar story, how they can make it fresh and different.
The Hogarth Shakespeare series is a series of books where famous authors (Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, GILLIAN FLYNN (yup, it’s coming, and she’s doing Hamlet, but not until next year I think)) retell one of Shakespeare’s plays. Now let’s talk about why Tracy Chevalier’s retelling of Othello did not work for me.
First of all, this is set in the ’70s I believe, on a school playground and all the characters are 11 years old. This did not work for a number of reasons. None of it was believable. All of the interactions between children felt strayed and unnatural. I could not justify or understand anything they did.
The story was almost uniquely translated to this setting, but the main premise remained the same. Nothing was new or unique or different. It was boring. I knew what was coming up at all times and I was bored.
This was also set during the course of one single day, which made everything even more unbelievable and I could not suspend my disbelief throughout the whole book. I had a lot of issues with how these KIDS thought and reacted, it was all very grown up, past their age, and I hate when that happens. I don’t believe that some of these kids can understand things that the book made them understand.
I liked that Chevalier tried to include the problem of race into this. Osei, O or our Othello, is a black kid coming into a new school where there are no other black kids. There was a tone of stuff explored about race, which I liked, but some of it was very strained and jarring, because these were 11 year old children. I could not believe the things that Osei did or thought. It was all quite unbelievable, albeit I am glad that racial issues were included into this.
All in all, I would not recommend this book. For me it failed on a lot of fronts. If you really like Othello or Shakespeare, maybe this would work for you, but I still think that this had a lot of stuff that just did not work.
Final verdict: 2 stars
If you read this, or any of the books from this series, please leave me your thoughts on them in the comments below!
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