Ophelia by Lisa Klein - Book Review & Teaching Links

Ophelia is the motherless child of an absent father. To keep her occupied, her father allows Ophelia the privilege of learning alongside her brother, something uncommon in the fourteenth century. When Ophelia turns eight, her father takes a position with the king, moving the family to the castle’s grounds. Life is very different from her small village routine, but Ophelia and her brother soon befriend the similar aged prince. As Ophelia grows into a strong-minded and beautiful young lady, the queen takes note of her many talents and makes her a favored attendant of the court. The prince also notices the beautiful Ophelia and they begin a love story in secret, as their match would not be deemed acceptable. With the help of the prince’s most trusted friend, they marry in secret.

And so begins the parallel tale of Ophelia, the girl Shakespeare gave us in brief and tragic form, reinvented. As Ophelia's story continues we witness Shakespeare’s Hamlet unfold. The king is murdered, his brother the murderer, much death and sadness until Prince Hamlet lay dead. But just as our Ophelia began long before Shakespeare’s invention, it doesn’t end there either. Author Lisa Klein offers further thought on what happened after the stage renders its mass of dead bodies. Still, I’ll leave that ending unrevealed, only allowing that this time the tragedy offers a hope-filled rewrite.

Ophelia is a wonderful story to use as a spring-board for Hamlet. The reader need not be familiar with the original in order to enjoy this story and I suspect many a young reader will want to rush off for a copy of Hamlet once finished. Klein writes within the original time-line, adding Ophelia’s point of view before, during and after the mayhem. She gives Ophelia a modern voice, yet remains true to Shakespearean speak. The Disneyesque ending is a bit heavy-handed and this reader did have a few continuity questions in regard to Ophelia’s actions, though Hamlet’s continuity is certainly something Shakespeare, himself, was toying with in his original.

Recommended as a jumping off point for the study of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for secondary students who enjoy parallel fiction and those keen on courtly tales.


Genre: Parallel Fiction. Age: Young Adult. Pages: 336

Themes: Romance, Loss, Coming of Age

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA. Date: October 2006.
ISBN-10: 1582348014 / ISBN-13: 978-1582348018

Buy Ophelia Here

Teaching Guide 1

Teaching Guide 2

Reader's Guide Link

Lisa Klein grew up in the boondocks and tried her hand at writing at an early age. She once wrote a story about a dog with his head stuck in a mayonnaise jar. You can read more about her on her website.

© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com
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