Hamlet is a story of betrayal, dealing with grief, politics and madness. In the play, Shakespeare is able to hit on many themes and emotions, giving actors much to work with leading to some intense performance from talented actors.
Then there is this book.
Falling for Hamlet takes the story of Hamlet, sloppily butchers it and stuffs the remaining corpse with teen fiction tropes. The book is told from the perspective of Ophelia and how she is so in love with Hamlet… etc… etc… Hamlet is so hot… etc etc. The usual. The core of the story, the atmosphere and the depth has been removed and sacrificed to make the story flashy and hip. Don’t get me wrong, rewrites and novelizations of Shakespearian plays can work (For example, Fool by Christopher Moore) but the author needs to take care with what they are doing and how they approach it.
In the case of this novel, it is modernized. It takes place in Denmark probably present day. Ophelia is still the daughter of Polonius, an advisor to the King. She has been friends with Hamlet and Horatio forever. She also has dated Hamlet off and on again, recently getting back together with him at the distain of Gertrude Hamlet’s Mother.
So Ophelia? Is she likeable? Meh. Is she relatable? Not in the slightest. On many occasions it is shoved in the Reader’s face that Ophelia is hot. She’s so hot that she doesn’t have to do anything and she will look hot. She’s blond, well dressed and lives the celebrity life. But she doesn’t want to celebrity life, she wants to be normal. Ophelia is madly in love with Hamlet, which we are constantly reminded of. In the play, Ophelia is a side character. She is in love with Hamlet and Hamlet loves her too, but this isn’t that crucial to the story line. Ophelia’s purpose is to act as a foil to Hamlet’s character and to be a comparison to him and his “decent into madness”. In this novel Ophelia comes off as being unbelievable. She reminded me of Bella from Twilight judging her existence on how much Hamlet loves her. Which makes me wonder… Ophelia acknowledges that she is that girl, the girl who drops her friends and her life to run after a boy, does it make it worse that she knows this, or does it make it better in some way?
Then there is Hamlet, as I mentioned earlier, Hamlet is “hot”. When we are first introduced to him his main characteristics are that he is hot and he is a great boyfriend. All of Hamlet’s story arch becomes unbelievable as his actions are forced.
What really got to me, was how the author tried to incorporate the soliloquies into the novel. This didn’t really work. The speeches lost their power after being translated into modern english. All of the eloquence lost. This novel took the plot strands of Hamlet and stripped it down to the bare minimum (the romance, Hamlet going crazy) and simplified the characters. I understand what Michelle Ray was attempting to do here, but it wasn’t effective. This novel would have been much better if it wasn’t a direct adaptation, instead stood on its own with different character names and different locations (pulling a Lion King if you will).
I highly recommend you take a look at the original play.