Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hamlet: A Novel by John Marsden

This book will be available August 11th, 2009.


Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but Hamlet can't be sure what's causing the stench. It emanates from Elsinore, the royal palace, and his family seems to be the problem, not the solution. Horatio thinks his friend is acting stranger than usual, but on the other hand, Hamlet's uncle has become his stepfather. The prince's rage at his mother's infidelities -- together with his greed for the beautiful Ophelia and the call of his dead father to revenge a "murder most foul" -- have his mind in chaos.

He wants to be the size of a king, man enough for anything, but can Hamlet believe his own eyes? Was it really his father's ghost that night on the castle ramparts -- or a hell-fiend sent to trick him?

Ratings: (please see review)

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: --/10
Voice: 6/10
Setting: --/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 52/70

Grade: A

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but not too frequently.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Content: No actual scenes, but mentioned many times and there is some crude narration. For mature audiences, I would say.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Suicide, murder--it's Hamlet. You get the idea.


This book is almost impossible to assign number ratings to because it is a classic tale--we've all heard it, we all know how it ends and where it's set. Therefore, I did not try to give those aspects a rating at all. The point of the book is not to create an original tale, but to tell a well-known tale in an original way, and so Hamlet: A Novel received good marks for originality, because this it certainly accomplished.

It may look like Shakespeare's Hamlet, and it is. It is the tale in full, written in prose for a modern audience. Amazingly readable, this book is quick, light, witty, and does justice to the great Bard himself. Marsden's ingenuity is obvious in his writing, where he carefully weaves in the famous words of Shakespeare with his own version of the story. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is expected to read the play for school (ahem) or just wants a thorough understanding of the plot, without the additions or creative license some authors take where this story is involved.

Though beautifully written, some aspects of the voice were not satisfying to me. I get Marsden's intention to make Hamlet easily understandable, but some of the changes he made--for instance, calling pants/men's hose "jeans"--irked me. At other times, it seemed inconsistent. For a few paragraphs the tone would be bordering on Shakespeare's actual words but would then veer off into something casual and contemporary. This was not always a problem, and I think that this would actually appeal to many readers, but not for me.

Overall, a great, entertaining read that only increased my love of Shakespeare. Even for those who don't enjoy his plays, it would still definitely be something I wouldn't want to miss!


  1. I picked this one up at ALA from a free pile because I thought it'd be interesting to read a prose version of Hamlet. I'm not the biggest fan of Shakespeare. I'd like to read his stories but I hate hate hate his writing. I thought this one might be ideal for getting the story without having to read his writing. Hopefully that works out for me.

  2. You should read Ophelia next. It's a new YA book I've seen around at book stores. It's Hamlet told from her point of view and it would be interesting to see how they compare.

  3. Wow this sounds really good! I am going to have to read this one =)

    Love your blog by the way! Check out mine if you have time =)

    Happy Reading


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