4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Ophelia (Paperback)Lisa Klein's Ophelia is a tightly-written, pacey and lively spin-off of Hamlet in novel form, as told from (you guessed it) Ophelia's perspective. The plot begins years before Hamlet's timeline and ends years after, allowing for Ophelia's character to be drawn out much more fully from Shakespeare's sketchy and puzzling portrayal.
Klein chose to set the novel not in the period of Hamlet's Denmark, but in the period of Shakespeare's writing of the play. Interwoven with the plot of Hamlet are allusions to a number of contemporary works, including Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, in addition to conceits from sonnets by (among others) Lady Mary Wroth, all against a backdrop of romance, conduct literature, hagiography and other genres for and about women.
The fact that Ophelia is a woman allows Klein to intersperse a range of historical detail appopriate to women, including negotiations with cultural requirements for chastity, obedience and silence and a rich tapestry of herbal lore (as suggested by Ophelia's preoccupation with flowers in Hamlet). The characters' language is also suggestive of early modern literary dialogue.
However, these scholarly elements are by no means overpowering: the novel walks a careful line, never losing track that it is first and foremost a modern romance intended for the enjoyment of a wide readership without specialist knowledge. Whether intentional or not, it's a story that's crying out for a film.