Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Review of Ophelia by Lisa Klein AND CONTEST!

I made a New Year's resolution to read more books (in fact, to read one a week). Ophelia, a YA novel by Lisa Klein, was the first book I completed in 2009. And I loved it so much, I had to write today's blog post about it.

Most people have either read Shakespeare's Hamlet, or have at least heard about it--Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, is haunted by his father's ghost that claimed to have been murdered by Hamlet's uncle...the very same man now occupying the throne, and who also just married Hamlet's own mother. Drama! Intrigue! Potential bloodbath!

Of course, since this is a Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet goes on a rampage, until there's, like, only one person left alive in the end...and it ain't Hamlet.

One of the people affected by this tragedy is Ophelia, Hamlet's love--in the play, she goes mad with grief after Hamlet accidentally kills her father, and she ends up drowning herself.

I always loved Ophelia and wished Shakespeare had written more about her. Well, he didn't, but Lisa Klein did. Starting from Ophelia's childhood, Klein explores Ophelia's upbringing--how she came to fall in love with Hamlet, the twists and secret plots that ultimately kept them from being together, and what happened to Ophelia when Hamlet went mad...and afterward.

Ophelia is a strong, empowering character who struggles to find her sense of purpose, as well as true happiness. I was gripped by the narrative and had a hard time putting the book down.

Even better, this novel breathes new life not only into Ophelia, but into the play itself. The author cleverly comes up with plot ideas that fit the frame of the original story. The language is vivid, beautiful, and evocative, but still a quick read.

I truly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone who loves Shakespeare or Shakespearean-era stories. Huge, huge thumbs up to Lisa Klein for a wonderful tale.

PS--Klein has a new YA novel out set during the Civil War, called Two Girls of Gettysburg, and you'd better believe I'll run out and buy it, too!


Who's your favorite Shakespearean character, and why? Leave a comment in this post telling me, and you'll be entered into a random drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card (it'll be emailed to you).

Contest winners will be announced Friday morning on Gwen's post, so you have today (Wednesday, 1/14/09) and tomorrow (Thursday, 1/15/09) to leave a comment in this post and enter to win.

Good luck!


  1. Amanda Brice10:13 AM

    GREAT review!!!!! I definitely want to read it now!

  2. I am definitely buying this book. I love Shakespeare - Othello's always been one of my favorites. Poor Desdemona! And Hamlet's a great one, too. I also love the comedies.

  3. Anonymous10:37 AM

    I've always been a big fan of Viola-- mainly because of her resourcefulness to become Cesario :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I've read quite a few of Shakespeare's works thanks to some advanced English classes in high school. But my two favorite (sorry, they kind of go together in my mind) characters from his works are Kate and Petruchio from Taming of the Shrew. They have the best character dynamics and dialogue!

  6. Man, I want to read this so badly! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Portia from Julius Caesar has always been my favorite. She gored her own thigh to prove she could keep better counsel to her husband than any mere man. Portia is hardcore!

  7. I studied English Lit and Shakespeare extensively in college so I had to rack my brains for my favourite character. I love so many of them.

    Eventually I came up with The Fool in King Lear - he's almost a background character a lot of the time, vanishes completely (presumed dead) by the end, and yet he is the one truly there for the poor mad King, trying to steer him in the right direction and keep him safe.

    Or Edgar, because, let's face it, he's hot! ;)

  8. Anonymous10:59 AM

    I read this book & I loved it!

  9. Amanda Brice11:06 AM

    I have to agree with Angela. I love the repartee between Kate and Petrucchio!

  10. Hamlet is actually my favorite Shakespeare play! There is just so much going on and ghosts! Total paranormal play:) Poor poor Ophelia, loving Hamlet just isn't enough for her. She loses her father to hamlet's hand. Her brother is adversarial to Hamlet. Everything was stacked up against her.

    btw, Kenneth Branagh's epic, Hamlet is AMAZING!

  11. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Now I want to read the book too! I went through a little Shakespeare kick when I was about 14, I should get back into that...

    My favorite character from that time was actually MacBeth. His quest for power intrigued me and his relationship with his wife... well. Ha! Good meaty stuff there. :)

  12. Amanda Brice12:38 PM

    inthemotions...Susan Fraser King had a novel released last year that tells Lady MacBeth's was very good. (She's a chaptermate of mine.)

  13. Ever since I saw the cover to this book, I've wanted to read it, and now I want it even more!

    My favorite Shakespeare character is Puck from Midsummer Night's Dream. He's just such a smart-youknowwhat.

    Oh, and if I do win, I know what book I'm going to buy... three guesses, and the first two don't count. :)

  14. I'd have to say Kate and Petruchio as well! I just love the banter between them; it's so spirited and humorous.

  15. Anonymous1:46 PM

    I'm dying to read both these Lisa Klein books. Oh, and Caroline Cooney has a Macbeth book out called Enter Three Witches that I really liked. Me, I always wanted to do an update of All's Well that Ends Well, so I pick Helena. She was so determined to ignore the facts, I have to love her.

  16. I may like Beatrice best, from Much Ado, because she's so smart and doesn't try to hide it. (And she can show her smarts in female clothing, too!)

    Not to dis Viola, whom I also love.

    But you know who I'd love to play on stage? Goneril in King Lear. IMHO, Regan is just evil, but Goneril also has a serious anger management problem. Fun to play! ;-)

    I could be mean here, of course, and say "no, my favorite character is Bagot in Richard II! No, I mean Helen in Troilus and Cressida!" ....but I won't. (Because they're boring, of course!)


  17. Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. Strong and smart, but loving and loyal.

  18. Ohhhh this went on my must read list. I'm also a Beatrice fan, sm2. In fact, I did a painted quote from that play (bordered in lilacs) and hung it on my wall ages ago.

    When the prince says to her that she must have been "born in a merry hour," she replies:

    No, milord, my mother cried. But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.

    I still cry every time I hear it.

  19. Anonymous2:31 PM

    I'm a huge Shakespeare fan. I know how typical this may sound, but Kate from The Taming of the Shrew is my favorite. She's so strong and brave, to me, because she's comfortable outside the conventions of her time, enough so that she's seen as a shrew. In fact, the name I use on my blog (varkat) comes from "various Katherines," and she's one. Another is Kit from The Witch of Blackbird Pond, another of my favorites.

  20. Wow, look at these fantastic entries! Thanks for commenting on your fav Shakespeare characters, guys!!

  21. There are so many great ones to choose from! I guess I'll say that Viola has always been one of my favorites. (From Twelfth Night) She is strong and smart, and despite the cross-dressing and macho gig she has to play, she is absolutely a woman. Go get 'em, Vi!!

  22. I think I would have to say my favorite Shakespearean character is Marc Anthony from Julius Caesar just because of his great speech. Neither wit nor words nor worth indeed! Ha!

  23. Great review. Hamlet has always been my favorite Shakespearean play.

  24. Thanks for the review. I'll be looking for this one now!

    Gotta admit Kate from the Taming of the Shrew has always been a favorite of mine...and independent woman in an age that didn't support her *sigh*

  25. I'd have to say Kate, too.

    But I'll have to check out this book!

  26. Hamlet is one of my all time favorites. (I have a love of rampages in books for some reason)I loved Ophelia so this book you blogged about, is definitely going on my replace books from flood list

  27. This book sounds rad! I had never heard of it, and now I want to read it!

  28. Falstaff is my comparison...

    But this looks like a great read!

  29. I love Lady Macbeth--she's ambitious, take charge, powerful (and kinda nuts), but in the end she's just human like the rest of us :)

    I might have to look up the book Amanda Brice mentioned...


  30. Anonymous9:17 PM

    I definitely want to read this book!!! Great review. I have many favorite Shakespeare characters, but my favorite right now is Rosalind because Roz from my novel My Invented Life plays her!

  31. I've always been fascinated by ophelia. i have several pre-raph prints depicting her and the lady of chalotte. I think my fav shakespeare character is Caliban, from the Tempest, just because he's an awesome concept in an awesome play. But my fav name of a shakes char is Dogberry. I forget where he's from. Much Ado I think.

  32. Am I too late?

    I haven't read much Shakespeare, but I like Falstaff. Because he's a genius. :) And he's funny.

  33. Great Review! I'm so going to add this to my list. I've read most of Shakespeare's works and Ophelia always intrigued me too. So many questions surrounding her...