Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood: Review

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Muse Monthly book review

I want to share a little story about how this epic partnership came to be. Even before Muse Monthly officially launched, I knew I wanted to do author curated boxes. It was something I could only dream about, and had a wishlist of people I wanted to work with. But of course, when a business is young, you have to stay reasonable. No one knew about Muse Monthly yet, and there was no way someone who had published several award-winning novels would want to dedicate any time to a new subscription box.

After our collaboration with V.E. Schwab (which happened because I asked her through instagram), I felt a little more confident in asking my publishing friends if we could do something similar again. I asked who had books coming out that might be interested, and a few names were tossed around, Ms. Atwood’s being one of them. Never in a million years did I think she’d agree to it – but they asked, and she did.

Of course, it helps that she’s a tea lover.

I feel so grateful to Ms. Atwood for taking time out and signing bookplates, choosing a tea, and writing a lovely letter about her book to our faithful subscribers. This collaboration was beyond a dream come true.

I knew Hag-Seed was going to be a fantastic read. The Tempest was the first Shakespeare play I ever read, so I feel a lot of attachment to the story. It was assigned my eighth grade year and I remember being swept up by the magic, by spirits and monsters and revenge. It is one of Shakespeare’s best.

Ms. Atwood has taken the tale and not only modernized it, but presented it in a way that feels so real and concrete it is impossible not to flip eagerly through the pages. Her take on the Tempest changes Prospero to Felix, an artistic director for the theater, who is usurped and fired by his co-worker, Tony. Felix, devastated to lose his job after also losing his wife and child, Miranda, takes a job teaching Shakespeare in a prison. Here, he is able to use his talents and bring his production of the Tempest to life.

Atwood presents a meta-theatrical version of the Tempest – a play within a play, echoing aspects of the original play. The creation of theatrical magic is paramount in Atwood’s version, primarily present in how the prisoners bring the play to life with limited resources. Atwood brings The Tempest into a real world; the prison becomes the island, betrayal is bureaucratic. Atwood expertly writes the themes reflected on multiple levels – the ‘real world’ finding echoes in Shakespeare’s text, as well as the play being mirrored by the characters. She writes with an expert intricacy, and creates an intense revenge plot that makes Hag-Seed a real page-turner.

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