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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Falling for Hamlet

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray

Grade: 2 stars out of 5
On and off again playboy/boyfriend Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. As the daughter of the King’s advisor, Ophelia’s relationship is far from being blessed by her father, brother, and Hamlet’s mother. But they’ll make it work unless, of course, there’s a murder and murderer in the royal family.
Having read Hamlet in senior year of high school I am familiar with the original storyline. My classmates and I read the play at home, performed certain scenes in class and watch two versions of the movie. I was instantly pulled in by Falling for Hamlet by the synopsis and my love for Hamlet. I loved the character Ophelia and couldn’t wait to begin Ray’s rendition of Hamlet where Ophelia does not die. Sadly Falling for Hamlet was a difficult read for me.

I found Falling for Hamlet to be a very dull read during the first half of the book. Ray’s takes her time to situate the characters in the modern time period and redefine Ophelia’s personality. That process was mundane and stifling. It was so hard to get pass the first couple of chapters that it took two weeks for me to finally force myself to read the book, even then I will admit to skimming pages. Here’s the part where I think my love for Hamlet was Falling for Hamlet’s downfall: I know the storyline, I know where it’s heading so nothing is of great surprise, which was why I found the book boring.

When Hamlet’s madness finally kicked in I realized how much I missed his soliloquies. His soliloquies were what made the readers believe that Hamlet was on the border between sanity and insanity. In Falling for Hamlet, the readers only see what Ophelia sees. Hamlet in Falling for Hamlet doesn’t have the fluidity; his actions aren’t very clear. When the other characters fell into madness it came off more as selfish and annoying than crazed. Ray didn’t take the opportunity to develop some of the other characters as much I hoped she would. While the King was more fleshed out in the short time the readers know him, Gertrude, the Queen, was still one-dimensional.

Ophelia’s role is a subtle one and doesn’t play a huge part. When Ray decides to continue the original storyline of Hamlet, Ophelia is not present in the scenes. In my personal taste I wanted Ophelia to be in on the action and have Ray shift the storyline a bit to incorporate Ophelia while still have that signature “tragedy”.

As I mentioned the lack of fluidity of Hamlet’s actions, Ray decided to write a talk show, an interrogation and Ophelia’s retelling all at the same time. Each chapter began with the talk show then moved into the retelling and abruptly shifting into an interrogation from investigators. Too much. Scenes also become borderline ridiculous when Ray moves everything to modern times. People still fence right? For me, it was strange when Ray replaced fencing with lacrosse in the climax. Again, maybe it is a reader’s preference and Ray wanted to add something original and something of her own. Lacrosse is a dangerous sport.

Finally I have to point out the text speech Ray incorporates quite frequently in the book is annoying. I realize that books take years to be published, but I think she should have gone back in and edit those text messages. For example: “Strnge thngs r afoot @ the circle K…. Go hm. H wl need u” (Ray 90) is confusing. It took a while for me to understand whatever the heck Ophelia was trying to say. I even read the previous paragraph again, but still couldn’t decipher this code. I don’t know why Ray decided to spell out circle when it could have been abbreviated to “cir.” and then remove all the vowels in “home” to spell “hm”. At least I think that was supposed to be home. Ray does this again in another text message on page 250 with come (cm) to my confusion.

Falling for Hamlet was not for me. I’m sure there is an audience out there for this classics retelling by the other reviews are saying for this book.

Cover D-
Er. No. No, no, no, no. Awkwardly placed chair. A couple up against a wall? Micro-mini skirt? Definitely speaks Hamlet (sarcastic). 
Published: 2011, July 5; hardcover
Source: HipScout
Amazon: preorder


  1. If I know nothing of Hamlet do I think I would find this lacking and boring, too?

  2. @Melissa: I will say that you will probably find it more interesting than what I thought it to be.

  3. I can definitely see why you found this confusing, l could read that line so many times and still not understand! Also when things don't flow it becomes really hard.
    I love this cover and was hoping this would be a positive review but doesn't sound like it's for me.
    Thanks for the review.

  4. I just finished the book last night and really enjoyed it. With retellings there is always the aspect that already knowing what will happen will be boring, but I am always propelled ahead wondering what will be the same and what will be different. Especially in the case of tragedies, I am always wondering how closely the ending will stick to the original.

    Do you typically enjoy other updates/adaptations or not?

  5. I'm really happy to find someone else who had the same reaction to this book. I liked your review!