“Hamlet: A Novel” by James Marsden

Hamlet, Hamlet. Why are you always reading Hamlet?” asked 6yo Drake when I asked if he’d seen my book, James Marsden’s Hamlet: A Novel.

“Because it’s one of the greatest stories, ever,” I replied, wondering how long until I can introduce him to the Dane.

My husband G. Grod and I have many text and DVD editions of the play. I hadn’t heard of Marsden’s, though, until M, who blogs at Mental Multivitamin, mentioned that our mutual virtual penpal (MVP! heh) S, who blogs at Pages Turned, was enjoying it. S doesn’t recommend lightly, and both M and I picked up Marsden’s novelization of Hamlet right away.

Whether foolhardy or hubristic, Marsden’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play is a success. He updates the prose, keeps much of the poetry, and lets us into the hearts and minds of Hamlet, Horatio and Ophelia, as a production of the play would do. The end result is an eminently readable, widely accessible tale, especially geared to young adults. The humor, sexuality, romance, tragedy and horror is all there, but told in a different style suited to the medium of the novel.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” Horatio asked him.

He was lying on Hamlet’s bed.

Hamlet was sitting on the stone floor, in a corner, the corner farthest from the door. The prince was eating strawberries. He smiled. It was the first time Horatio had seen him smile since the funeral.

This novel is a wonderful addition to the ever-expanding Hamlet oeuvre (like The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle and Undiscovered Country from last year) as well as a good introduction to the play for potentially reluctant readers.

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