Posted by: montclairlibrary | September 30, 2017

Hamlet 2.0

Books Inspired by Hamlet, a list by the Friends of Montclair Library

The Bay Area is having a bit of a “Hamlet” moment: San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Free Shakespeare in the Park is wrapping up its summer run of “Hamlet” this weekend with free shows in McClaren Park, and ACT is in the midst of a “Hamlet” run (through Oct. 15) – now is the perfect time to pick up a book inspired by Shakespeare’s classic tale of mortality and madness.

Authors have been borrowing Shakespeare’s (often themselves borrowed) plots for centuries, so it’s no surprise that, from “The Lion King” to “Sons of Anarchy,” “Hamlet’s” tale of a son seeking to avenge his father’s death is firmly entrenched in pop culture.

It’s especially fun to see authors spin off minor characters or change the story’s location or time period. Here are 9 books that play with “Hamlet’s” characters, plot and themes:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard (822 ST735) – Stoppard’s “play expands upon the exploits of two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.” (Wikipedia)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (FIC WROBLEWSK) – Set in rural Wisconsin, this retelling features “a mute boy who, after his father is killed, runs away from but then returns to his usurped home, hoping to prove his suspicions that his uncle murdered his father.” (Wikipedia)

The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig (FIC HAIG) (not at Montclair) – Eleven-year-old Philip Noble learns from the ghost of his late father that his uncle, who has designs on Philip’s mother, murdered Philip’s father in order to get his hands on the family pub.

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike (FIC UPDIKE) (not at Montclair) – Set before the action begins in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” this speculative novel follows the lives of Gertrude and Claudius, King and Queen of Denmark, as they wend their way towards adultery and treachery to ascend the throne.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan (FIC McEWAN) – The nine-month-old inhabitant of Trudy’s womb bears witness to a murder plot devised by Trudy and Claude, the brother of Trudy’s ex-husband.

Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) by Jasper Fforde (SF FFORDE) (not at Montclair) – In the continued adventures of literary detective Thursday Next, Thursday returns from the BookWorld accompanied by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

The Steep And Thorny Way by Cat Winters (YA FIC WINTERS) (not at Montclair) – “A sixteen-year-old biracial girl in rural Oregon in the 1920s searches for the truth about her father’s death while avoiding trouble from the Ku Klux Klan in this YA historical novel inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’.” (Publisher)

A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson (YA FIC HUTCHISON) (not at Montclair) – A reimagining of the world and story of Hamlet–from Ophelia’s perspective and set in an American boarding school.

srsly Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Courtney Carbone – This one is only available through Link+, but the concept is too fun to pass up: “William Shakespeare’s tragedy told in the style of texts, tweets and status posts.” (Publisher)

And stay tuned: Gillian Flynn, author of the best-selling novel Gone Girl, is adapting “Hamlet” into “a novel about murder, betrayal, revenge and madness” for the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, according to the New York Times. The book is due out in 2021.

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