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Ophelia

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Not long ago, I reviewed French’s I Am JULIET praising it, as most critics did, because it introduced Juliet as a real person, and gave easy access to Shakespeare’s prose. Now she has tackled a more difficult young woman in another of the bard’s masterpieces, and she has done it with verve and panache. In the sub-title there is a clue to alert the young reader to the fact that this time round, the prolific Jackie French has changed the plot somewhat. That sub-title is “Queen of Denmark”. But didn’t Ophelia drown? All those wonderful paintings down the years have shown her, bedecked in flowers very much dead.

Using a great deal of the original play, the author has extended the story to give it a happy ending. This despite the fact that “all I could do was wait to see how the men disposed of the land, and us.” With her lively imagination, Ophelia does wait, but she waits with a strong purpose, determined to fulfil her destiny, laid out for her by the ghost of the old king Fortinbras. And while she is growing up, and coming to grips with the violent death of her beloved father, she learns about Danish cheeses. Not all of them authentic, but all of them interesting – Jackie French had a lot of fun as she included so many of them in the menus of those times at Elsinore. It is a clever combination of the original play and the current writer’s fancy it could be a help, or a distraction, for any student working on the tragedy today. Once you have read Ophelia, see if you agree with Jackie French when she says “I suspect Shakespeare would have been more horrified by his plays being studied in books, than with the liberties I’ve taken with the plot and script.” This reviewer knows which way she would cast her vote!

OPHELIA by JACKIE FRENCH

PUBLISHED by ANGUS & ROBERTSON

for a recommended $16.99

REVIEW ; NINA VALENTINE