Review: A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2013
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group/ Carolrhoda Lab
320 pages

With sweeping lyricism and expertly woven beauty amongst its tragedy, as a modern retelling from Ophelia’s perspective, A Wounded Name more than does justice to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Since her mother’s death, Ophelia has been considered mildly crazy. With the ability to see ghosts and hear the music of the bean sidhe, even the pills that her father all but forces down her throat, can’t make Ophelia ‘normal’. When Elsinore Academy’s Headmaster dies, everyone is shaken, but no one so much as his son, Dane Hamlet. Dane - devastated by the loss, and furious with the rest of his family - begins to possessively depend and lean on Ophelia. Left with meeting Dane’s needs, her father’s standards, and keeping a promise to her dead mother, Ophelia becomes impervious to her own needs, and suffers greatly for it. When Hamlet starts to act more and more deranged, no one is safe from his wrath, especially not Ophelia.

Though A Wounded Name modernizes Hamlet’s world, the play’s original flow and lyricism is expertly maintained. If a reader were unfamiliar with the play, the creatively interwoven original passages would seem like Hutchison’s words, but for those who know, they are little treats dropped in every once in a while. I was personally not a big fan of Hamlet being reduced from Prince, to son of a school Headmaster, but the majority of the other modernizations worked very well, and I believe they made the story much more accessible and relatable for readers.

For me, the driving forces of the story were the elements that differed from the play, including the mystery surrounding Ophelia’s mother, and Ophelia’s supernatural ‘madness’. Wondering whether the novel would end the same way as the play also kept me reading, because with Ophelia as the narrator, it’s hard to see how a similar ending would be possible. While I loved many of the changes, and appreciated how true the novel stayed to the play in terms of the tone and the feel, I didn’t feel Hamlet’s fall into madness was clear enough. With Ophelia’s narrating, her madness is obvious from the beginning, but without Hamlet’s narration, I felt the madness, revenge, insanity, and drama, needed to be elevated a little more to make his madness that much more evident.  

As a Shakespeare lover I found the changes, twists, turns, and in some cases fuller characterizations, to be interesting and effective additions to a play that I personally love. I know with more formal language, and a link to Shakespeare, the novel won’t be for every reader, but I hope it finds an audience that appreciates its excellence.

Rating 8/10

Side Note: What a beautiful cover. Seriously. It’s Amazing.

** I received a copy of the novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated.

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