I’m a sucker for modern day retellings of classic stories. This, coupled with a reading of Hamlet in my English IV classes, attracted me to Falling for Hamlet, Michelle Ray’s debut novel.
Told from Ophelia’s point of view, Falling for Hamlet places Hamlet firmly in the modern era. Hamlet is still Denmark’s prince, but he is followed by paparazzi, parties at frat houses, and carries a smart phone. Ophelia lives in the very modern castle and has been dating Hamlet on and off for years. Her father is the Danish king’s most trusted advisor and she lives a glamorous life. However, life isn’t as glamorous as it may seem. She and Hamlet can never have a real moment together, thanks to his overbearing mother and the insanity of the paparazzi.
Michelle Ray has managed to modernize the tale of Hamlet while also staying faithful to the original. All of the characters are here and match very closely with Shakespeare’s original creations. Each chapter of Falling for Hamlet opens with Ophelia being interviewed by TV personality, Zara. (Zara is pretty much Opra). Zara is attempting to delve into the scandal and gossip that has plagued the Danish royal family and it’s an interesting way to bring the reader into the story. I feel like Shakespeare would approve of this writing device. Most of the chapters end with quotes of the transcript from Ophelia’s interrogation by Francisco and Bernardo, agents of the DDI (Danish Department of Investigation). Again, I loved this craft tool.
I really enjoyed the way Ray was able to take Shakespeare’s classic story and make it modern without changing the story completely. I look forward to sharing this with my students, as a way of demonstrating how the themes present in Shakespeare’s plays are relevant in today’s world. All of the themes, characters, jokes, and innuendo are there. It’s just modern. And come on, how much would Shakespeare have loved the addition of tabloids and paparazzai?
I admit I do like the cover, despite some hate for it on other blogs. It’s a tabloid-y cover and captures the story well. Ophelia is strong and sane, but she is trying to care for Hamlet, care for her father, and be a normal high school senior. Sometimes she just wants a minute alone with her boyfriend! On the other hand, I look forward to seeing what they do with the paperback cover. I do hope the cover doesn’t turn some people off, because this is a great book and a fantastic adaptation of Hamlet. It’s not a light and fluffy chick lit book- it’s dark and brooding, moody and upsetting. It’s Hamlet.
*ARC courtesy of the publisher