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Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Even when she takes her pills, the bean sidhe beckon, reminding her of a promise to her dead mother. Now, in the wake of the Headmaster's sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, and Ophelia can no longer ignore the fae. Especially once she starts seeing the Headmaster's ghosts—two of them—on the school grounds. Her only confidante is Dane, the Headmaster's grieving son. Yet ...
Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Even when she takes her pills, the bean sidhe beckon, reminding her of a promise to her dead mother. Now, in the wake of the Headmaster's sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, and Ophelia can no longer ignore the fae. Especially once she starts seeing the Headmaster's ghosts—two of them—on the school grounds. Her only confidante is Dane, the Headmaster's grieving son. Yet even as she gives more of herself to him, Dane spirals toward a tragic fate—dragging Ophelia, and the rest of Elsinore, with him.
You know how this story ends. Yet even in the face of certain death, Ophelia has a choice to make—and a promise to keep.
Posted August 11, 2014
To buy or not to buy? That is the question, but there is only one answer, and one not difficult to make: BUY.
This book is an absolute treat. I’m not a YA reader (or whatever age-specific genre it fits into), so I can’t compare it to other books of the same type, but this is one of the best modern takes on Shakespeare you’ll pick up. A Wounded Name is a blending of Hamlet, American prep school culture, and Irish mythology that is so deft that the bean sidhe wailing outside of a non-Danish Elsinore Academy on the wrong side of the pond just feels right. The vulnerability of Ophelia and the vision of her brokenness and strength will grab you and take you to the depths. The spotlight never leaves her, as this is truly the story of her struggles before and during the descent of Hamlet into his own blood-drenched hell, and the only occasions on which she yields the stage to the Danish prince are those the character chooses as she subordinates herself in painful, almost masochistic ways.
A Wounded Name is brutally committed to showing the true damage done to Hamlet (and others) by Claudius’ plotting, and it comes across most strongly in the Dane’s treatment of Ophelia. Hamlet’s rage and madness, skillfully portrayed in its progression from ruse to reality, manifests, as it did with the Bard, in verbal abuse of the poor fragmented girl. In Hutchison’s treatment, however, it also takes the form of impulsive physical abuse willingly endured, and Ophelia proves capable of both lifting up and hurting Hamlet herself. The development of Ophelia from the weak subject of manipulation we see in the original play to the fully-formed, mentally damaged, self-aware creature that she is in this book is achieved in part through a character invented whole-cloth for this story: her mother. Gertrude is so critical to Hamlet’s undoing, so fundamentally intertwined in his angst, sorrow, and vehemence, that bringing in Ophelia’s mother as a principal instrument of her fragility and calamities is the perfect foil to the Hamlet-Gertrude relationship that so many directors choose to give a near-incestuous undercurrent that is happily absent here.
Get this debut work from an author who is clearly gifted in not only making Shakespeare relatable (stuff it, Ira Glass!), but in breathing depth and life into a character often only used by others to illustrate Hamlet’s callousness and to introduce a light moment when her mind is broken and she wanders Elsinore in honest insanity. This is not a story for the squeamish, but neither is Hamlet. Both tragedies are beautifully driven by the viscous, violent, and vengeful, and you’ll cheer and shiver at the same time, reveling and reeling as the madness drowns an Elsinore whose virtuous walls have been breached by ambition, lust, revenge, and murder.
Buy this book and you won’t regret it. You won’t go looking to sheathe your bodkin, but you might grab a tissue, and you’ll surely never read Hamlet the same way again.
A note on earlier reviews. It’s difficult to imagine someone judging this book’s retelling of Hamlet WITHOUT HAVING READ HAMLET. Second, there is no temporal confusion. Some of the original lines from the play sneak in, as they should, but otherwise the language is quite modern, as is the setting as a whole. Women’s rights are a secondary plot point, discussed in the curriculum conflict that takes place within the academy while the more important plot elements play themselves out. No worries.
Posted December 18, 2013
Dot Hutchison is such an amazing writer, it's hard to even talk about her work because I'd never do it justice. She is a rare talent, and if my writing ever gets to be half as beautiful as hers, I will consider myself lucky.
Now, on to the specifics! I spent a lot of time with Shakespeare's comedies growing up, but I never got too cozy with the tragedies, so A WOUNDED NAME was the perfect way to re-introduce me to this story. I loved seeing things from Ophelia's perspective, and especially enjoyed the inclusion of faerie mythology. Ophelia's relationship with the fey folk and the spirits in the graveyard added a wonderful layer to an already beautifully complex story.
Ophelia's relationship with Dane (the sweet parts and the horrible ones) also added complexity to this story. Watching their relationship go from affectionate to passionate to harmful was definitely uncomfortable, because it was so realistic. And the more abusive Dane becomes, the more Ophelia searches for the old Dane, the one who would never grip her too tightly or put her in dangerous situations. And, through it all, we see how a girl with no familial support, who's grown up in a world where everyone dismisses her, could become so attached to the one boy who seemed to see her clearly, even when he becomes a danger to her. The abuse is never Ophelia's fault, and yet, she comes to believe it is, at least in part, and this too, is painfully realistic. Hutchison's portrayal of a girl trapped in an abusive relationship is unflinchingly honest.
A WOUNDED NAME makes so many amazing points about the way the men at Elsinore Academy dismiss and control women--not by shackling them or forcing them to be slaves, but by convincing them their value lies in their ability to take care of men. What's a girl to do in this situation? Well, I suppose she could run away in search of a more egalitarian society, leaving her entire family behind. But in Ophelia and Gertrude's cases (and, I think, in most real-world cases) the women try to adapt to their world in the best ways that they can. For Gertrude, this means sacrificing her autonomy to hold onto the only life she's ever know. And, in Ophelia's case, well...
We all know how this story ends.
But watching Ophelia descend into desperation is a fascinating (if painful) study in the power of environment and the danger of inequality. Hers is a story that needed to be told, and I'm so glad Hutchison was the one to do it. In Hutchison's capable hands, Ophelia's star shines bright, and we are able to glimpse the true nature of this wise, compassionate, hilarious girl, before that star burns out. I will remember this book for a very long time.
Posted December 2, 2013
We all know the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet, probably from high school english class (I was the nerd that loved it), but this is a very different version. The story line is still there and correct, all the people that died still die, and in the same way - we just get a different view of their motives and reasons behind their actions - because this time Ophelia tells the story. Instead of a castle, we have Elsinore Academy - a sprawling old-fashioned highly private school run by the Danemarks - and so the stage is set for one of my favorite tragedies to be told again in a completely new life. The thing that stood out the most for me was the writing itself - it was beautifully written. Dot Hutchison kept the flowing and lyrical style of Shakespeare, but didn't get hung up on the fancy language. The pages flew by and I was captivated by every word. Her desriptions were amazing - both scenery and characters brought to life. Since the story is told by Ophelia, we do not get to see the very end of Shakespeare's original, but we are left without a doubt of what will still happen. Even for people who do not like the original, they will fall in love with this modern telling of one of the most beautiful plays ever written. *This product was received in exchange for an homest review*Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 1, 2013
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***
A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Publication Date: September 1, 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
There's a girl who could throw herself head first into life and forge an unbreakable name, an identity that stands on its own without fathers or brothers or lovers who devour and shatter.
I'VE NEVER BEEN THAT GIRL.
Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Even when she takes her pills, the bean sidhe beckon, reminding her of a promise to her dead mother.
Now, in the wake of the Headmaster's sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, and Ophelia can no longer ignore the fae. Especially once she starts seeing the Headmaster's ghosts- two of them- on the school grounds.
At the center of her crumbling world is Dane, the Headmaster's grieving son. He, too, understands the power of a promise to a parent- even a dead one. To him, Ophelia is the only person not tainted by deceit and hypocrisy, a mirror of his own broken soul. And to Ophelia, Dane quickly becomes everything. Yet even as she gives more of herself to him, Dane slips away. Consumed by suspicion, rage, and madness, he spirals towards his tragic fate- dragging Ophelia, and the rest of Elsinore, with him.
YOU KNOW HOW THIS STORY ENDS.
Yet even in the face of certain death, Ophelia has a choice to make- and a promise to keep. She is not the girl others want her to be. But in Dot Hutchison's dark and sensuous debut novel, the name "Ophelia" is as deeply, painfully, tragically real as "Hamlet".
What I Liked:
This book is stunning! Immediately after I finished it, I thought to myself, "I can't read anything, after reading this book!" Of course, the book that I read right before this one (The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson) was FANTASTIC, and the book that I read right after this one (All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill) was AMAZING. So, I was in good shape.
I read Hamlet in high school, as part of the English curriculum at my school. While I didn't necessarily hate it, I wasn't all that impressed with it. But I did read it, and then re-read it (to study for the test, of course). So, I was pretty familiar with the play.
This book is pretty spot-on, in terms of how it works with the play. It's told in the perspective of Ophelia though. I always like Ophelia the most, and felt bad for her, in the play. This book exemplifies exactly why I liked her and felt bad for her. Sure, Hamlet was going crazy. But he totally dragged Ophelia down with him.
This story is set in the modern world in a boarding school. The "King" is the Dean, and he is dead. The "Queen" is like, the great hostess or whatever, which is why she felt the need to marry Claudius. Claudius inherited the position of Dean, and Gertrude stayed the hostess of the school.
Hamlet - Dane, as he is called in this book, is the male protagonist of the story, and Ophelia is the female protagonist of the story. In Hutchison's story, there is no doubt that Dane and Ophelia were in love. Whenever he got upset, or angry, or crazy, Ophelia would go after him. Ophelia would lend her comfort to him. Ophelia would let him do anything to her, in order to help him cope with all the insane changes in his life.
Basically, she let him kiss her, touch her, bruise her, drag her off on his motorcycle... to comfort him. I'm not okay with a guy hurting a girl, unstable or not, but I see why she let him. She always let him take the comfort he needed from her, in whatever form. This makes her passive, which I hate, but I understand her reasons.
Hutchison includes fae in this story. Ophelia can see them, see them dancing and singing when the Dean of the school ("King" Hamlet) died, in the graveyard, and so on. Apparently, Ophelia's (and Laertes') mother is fae? And she wants Ophelia to join the fae at the bottom of the lake. That's part of the story as well, but it wasn't in the original play.
We all know how the story ends. And by the end of the story, we're expecting the ending to happen. It's not like the Titanic, where we're all like, HOW COULD HE DIE?! The ending is expected, and fits seamlessly into the story.
If you read nothing else, READ THIS: the writing style of this book is absolutely GORGEOUS. Hutchison weaves a beautiful story with precision and perfection. There was this one line towards the end of the book, at the beginning of Chapter 38 that mentioned "Claudius dripping poison", but referring to Laertes - it was so perfectly placed, and it alluded to the poisoning of the King/Dean. I was so very impressed with the quality and brilliance of Hutchison's writing.
What I Did Not Like:
I already mentioned that I hate masculine violence against women. Dane bruises and hurts Ophelia - unintentionally - many times. While I think this is a necessary aspect of the story (it TOTALLY added to the story, in a good way), some people can't get past that.
One thing that really irked me was the constant switches in speech. One moment, I'm convinced that this is a historical fiction novel. The next moment, we're talking motorcycles and cars and cell phones. That confused me. I mean, Hutchison regressed women's rights (which is fine), but then, we're in the modern world. And then, one minute, all of the characters are talking all fifteenth-century formal, then they're talking modern day. I was confused! Which is it?!
I also never got a clear understanding of the whole fae deal, and what Ophelia's mother is, and what Ophelia's mother wanted Ophelia to do. The fae aspect was NOT explained well enough for me. It was vague, and usually I can get through vague, but not this time.
Would I Recommend It:
I would (though I've seen otherwise). But make sure you read the "did not like" section first.
3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. I've been a huge fan of Hutchison for quite some time, and I'm happy to say that I liked her debut. Keep writing, lady!
Posted August 12, 2013
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Lerner Publishing Group, Carolrhoda Lab, and Netgalley.)
15-year-old Ophelia lives with her father and her brother following her mother’s suicide, at the illustrious Elsinore Academy, where her father holds an important position.
The headmaster of Elsinore Academy has just died though, and while most think it was a heart attack, Ophelia and the groundskeeper know the truth – Hamlet was murdered.
With Hamlet’s body barely in the ground, his younger brother Claudius steps into his place, not only becoming the new headmaster, but also marrying Hamlet’s widow Gertrude.
In his grief and anger at his mother and uncle’s actions, Dane - Hamlet’s son, takes an interest in Ophelia, against her father’s wishes, but also begins acting bizarrely, leading people to think that he is going mad.
What is wrong with Dane? Did Claudius really murder Hamlet? And are the ghosts of Hamlet that Ophelia sees really real?
This was an interesting story, but I did get confused in places.
Ophelia was quite an odd character. She clearly missed her mother, and she clearly loved Dane, but otherwise she was pretty strange. At one point I wondered if her mother had been some kind of Fae, as she appeared to her and spoke to her in the water where she died, whilst at other times I wondered if she had merely been delusional.
Ophelia herself was on multiple medications to try and control what her family thought of as delusions, whilst in reality she may have had some kind of sight, as she heard fairies, and communed with the dead. Ophelia was quite an odd girl though, with pretty strange thoughts and ideas, and it was easy to get sucked in to her madness.
Some of the other characters in this book really shocked me. Even the idea that a man would kill his own brother to take his position and wife is such a betrayal to me, that I was really quite shocked by just how cunning Claudius could be.
Dane, who did really seem to love Ophelia, in turn seemed equal parts passionate and mad, and it was often difficult to guess his next move.
The storyline in this book is supposed to be a retelling of ‘Hamlet’, although I unfortunately haven’t read Hamlet to be able to compare the two! I do have some idea of the story though, and this didn’t stick exactly to the same storyline as the original.
I found the storyline in this book okay, but it did confuse me in places. I think that the amount of madness and delusions in the story really blurred the lines between what was really happening, and what Ophelia or Dane only thought was happening, which made the story quite confusing at times.
The ending was what I expected to some extent, mainly because the image of Ophelia drowning is quite a famous one, but I was confused as to exactly what happened to lead her to that point. I’m not sure if I missed something or whether I was just confused, but I’m not really sure how we got to the ending we got. I am now quite interested to read the original Hamlet though to find out how it happens in that. Another thing that I will say though, is that I don’t believe that Ophelia’s death is the end of the story in the original, where as it this it is, so I think it’s almost as if the ending from Hamlet is totally missing in this one.
The writing in this one was quite reminiscent of a Shakespeare story, and I thought that the air of madness and mystery was done well throughout. I was unsure about the year and setting for this retelling though, as there were mentions of very modern things, whilst the way that people behaved and spoke was very old-fashioned. I was also unsure of the setting, as I think Hamlet was originally set in Denmark, whilst this seems to be set in America? Both the setting and year were really poorly done, and I found this a bit annoying.
I did like this story overall though, although I think it is maybe supposed to be the kind of book that you puzzle over.
Overall; an interesting, if slightly confusing, retelling of Hamlet.
7 out of 10.
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