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You don’t need to be familiar with Shakespeare’s The Tempest to enjoy this book as it is an imaginative story that’s also full of humour, but, if you do, you’ll recognise that there are parallel stories and references to the original scattered through the text. The last chapter (No 51) of the recording is a helpful synopsis of the Shakespeare’s play and I recommend listening to that to even if you know the play. I’ve seen the The Tempest many times but have never studied it in detail and was surprised by the references and similarities that I had missed between the original and the facsimiles layered into the book.
The narrative is a clever construction comprising a play, within a play within a book. The book’s main character is Felix, a theatre director, who is ousted from his prestigious job by a devious rival. Not only is he depressed by his loss of status but is also haunted by the memory of his dead daughter (Miranda) whom he believes still inhabits his house as a spirit.
Felix goes underground and takes a lowly job as an artistic director in a prison. Previous productions within the prison have been geared to the supposed cultural tastes of prisoners, but Felix is determined to bring Shakespeare into the men’s lives. He starts with the easier plays for the men to appreciate: Macbeth and Julius Caesar, but he has had an ambition to stage The Tempest and persuades his charges into a production.
To cover his tracks and hide his previous more illustrious career, Felix has changed his name to Mr Duke (Prosepero was Duke of Milan). Felix’s nemesis, who took his place at his erstwhile theatre. was Tony Price (Tony= Antonio who ousted Prospero from his dukedom). You get the picture: the characters in the book’s story have similar names to the characters in The Tempest.
The inmates enter into the production with gusto and are given much latitude to create some of their own lines and there are many examples of highly engaging and imaginative rap that I think Shakepeare would have enjoyed. There’s a lot of remarkably scholarly discussion among the inmates and Felix that I found illuminating and will certainly make me more aware of the play’s many facets when I see the National Theatre’s production of The Tempest beamed to cinemas by satellite in January 2017.
There’s another layer to this book that shows Margaret Atwood’s mischievious side as the story becomes a rollicking revenge drama.
A great listen narrated with gusto.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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This is a high-class re-telling of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest.' It is full of clever ideas and twists and if you like Margaret Atwood's style of writing you will very likely love this. It is classic Atwood, full of witty dialogue, amazing imagination,clever and daring plotting and memorable characters. I listened to this story over two days, in awe of a master storyteller. Loved every minute of it.
You don't need to be familiar with the Shakespeare play to enjoy this tale and there is some explanation of the Bard's characters at the end of the book.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Incredibly clever nuanced & entertaining. I didn't want it to end. Can't recommend it highly enough
A wonderfully quirky take on this Shakespeare's tempest. Delivered by an excellent Narrator. Highly recommended