Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review of HAG-SEED by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Written by Margaret Atwood
Published: October 11th, 2016 by Hogarth
Hardcover, 301 pages
Literary, Humor & Satire

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually, he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?

This being my first modern day retelling of a Shakespearean play I was unsure at first if it would do the original play justice. Well, smack me silly, I was proven wrong by the wonderful job Margaret Atwood did in writing such an intriguing take of the Tempest with the twist of the modern day. The protagonist Felix gives the reader an ample amount to speculate upon regarding his character. Whereas I observed how Felix’s own life intertwined with the Tempest, for example, Prospero also had a daughter named Miranda who died additionally, things are not always what they insinuate with Felix. I don’t want to expose information too important nonetheless, an aspect of the plot I found intriguing was it is up to each individual reader to determine the mental state of Felix. What is mine, you ask? Well, I don’t think he is mad as Shakespeare would say.   

Once, not so long ago, Miranda would have been outside at this time...but he reminds himself that she doesn’t leave footprints, so lightly she tread...He turns on the heater. It whirs; Miranda? He says. Then he detects her: she’s over by their table, in the gathering shadows...When he opens the new suitcase, however, she leaves the table and comes over to look wonderingly at what he’s brought...the blue rubber bathing cap, the little boats! The three Disney Princesses in their tawdry finery: she finds them enchanting...What is each thing? She wants to know. Where did it come from, what is it for? What is bathing, what is skiing? Of course, these items are unknown to her: she knows so little about the outside world.

 The plot has been pleasingly written containing alluring elements, in addition to engaging readers with ample emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, including hysterical laughter. Atwood provided the reader a version of the Tempest that is magical, authentic, with delightfully superb actors who reside within Fletcher prison. Therefore, do not fret if you have not read the original play it is explained marvelously also conveniently at the back of the book is a summary of the Tempest.

He was, after all, still alive; he would need, for insurance, to file his tax return. Nothing would set the dogs on his trail so quickly as failure to comply. Such was the maximum price to be paid for the privilege of walking around the earth’s crust and continuing to breathe, eat, and shit, he thought sourly.

Whereas, this is a minute glance on my viewpoint of HAG-SEED you can anticipate scads of delight if you read the book.
He follows them through the vibrations of the Web, playing spider to their butterflies; he ransacks their carefree way, with never a thought in their otherwise scheming heads for him, Felix Phillips-exiled by their unjust, lying in wait for them, preparing his ambush. It’s taken a while, but revenge is a dish best eaten cold, he reminds himself.

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood's dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth ­ in the Massey series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Associations: Margaret Atwood was President of the Writers' Union of Canada from May 1981 to May 1982, and was President of International P.E.N., Canadian Centre (English Speaking) from 1984-1986. She and Graeme Gibson are the Joint Honourary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within BirdLife International. Ms. Atwood is also a current Vice-President of PEN International.


  1. Margaret Atwood is my favorite author. I’m on a waiting list for this book, and I’m super excited to read it. I should probably reread The Tempest first. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. You're going to LOVE this book by Atwood. Thank you for the kind words regarding my review.