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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 5 January 2017

"Hag-Seed" by Margaret Atwood

Felix Phillips is ousted as Artistic director of a Theatre festival by his right-hand man and swears revenge. Driven into theatrical exile he gets a job as teacher on a drama course at a prison. Then, as he and his prisoners prepare a production of The Tempest, the Minister for Justice and others in his retinue pay a visit to the prison. And real life events seem to match the events on stage step by step.

This is an ingenious and beautifully written update version of Shakespeare's classic. It also manages to be a brilliant critique of the play:

  • "Everyone loved the fight scenes: that's why Shakespeare put them in." (p 58)
  • "The optimistic characters are stakeholders in the more positive side of human nature, the pessimistic characters in the more negative side." (p 259)


I love Atwood's work. Here we have genius:

  • Her description of the smell prison: "Unfresh paint, faint mildew, unloved food eaten in boredom, and the smell of dejection, the shoulders slumping down, the head bowed, the body caving in upon itself. A meagre smell. Onion farts. Cold naked feet, damp towels, motherless years." (pp 74 - 75) Motherless years makes me want to weep.
  • Her understanding of the fundamentals of humanity: "You know teenage girls, they desert their adored daddies the minute some young ripped stud heaves into view" (p 141)
  • The joy of being alive: "Real life is brilliantly coloured ... It's made up of every possible hue, including those we can't see. All nature is a fire: everything forms, everything blossoms, everything fades. We are slow clouds ..." (p 178) Colourful philosophy.
  • Appreciation of feminine beauty: "If he were their age he'd be leaning forward too. Actually, he is leaning forward." (p 256) Truth and humour entangled.

Books by Margaret Atwood reviewed in this blog:




  • The Heart Goes Last: a homeless couple enter a utopian community
  • Bodily Harm: A wonderful Graham Greenesque excursion to a Caribbean island where no one is who they seem to be
  • Oryx and Crake: adventures in a world post climate change
  • Hag-Seed: a brilliant retelling of the Tempest, re enacted in a prison
  • The Handmaid's Tale: the one that everyone raves about ... but not her best.

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