Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

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Author: Margaret Atwood
ISBN-13: 978-1781090220
Publisher: Hogarth
Guideline Price: £16.99

No marks for deducing that Margaret Atwood has decided – as this wry, clever romp is part of Hogarth's Shakespeare 400th series in which famous writers offer variations of the mighty Elizabethan dramatist's individual plays – to retell The Tempest.

It is not, as the title suggests, Caliban’s side of the story. Instead, the increasingly sage Atwood has summoned Prospero in the form of Felix, a deposed, present-day theatre director whose folly was concentrating on his art, not office politics, thus allowing his crooked assistant Tony (Antonio) to destroy him.

Betrayal and revenge are the themes, as is a father’s sorrow. Felix seeks refuge in a remote shack and while his rage is mighty, far more effective is his grief as he continues to mourn his daughter, who died aged three.

Long years of self-exile pass, make that a dozen, and lo, fate presents him with a glimmer of hope as he talks his way into teaching drama at a prison.


The Fletcher Correctional Players quickly grasp Shakespeare, are finally ready to tackle a multi-media production of The Tempest and settle Felix's enemies.

He is an interesting character. It’s all a bit corny, particularly the dialogue, but that’s showbiz. Atwood knows the play, is sharp as nails and sees the potential in theatre harnessing our Brave New World of computer technology.

Eileen Battersby

Eileen Battersby

The late Eileen Battersby was the former literary correspondent of The Irish Times