Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Note: Eyes Like Stars

Mantchev, Lisa. Eyes Like Stars. New York: Square Fish, 2010.

Opening note: While composing this post, I discovered that this novel is the first in a trilogy, which may cause me to rethink my opinion of the individual book.

I read this book at the suggestion of one of the students in my Modern Shakespearean Fiction class, and I enjoyed it to a degree.

The novel follows the adventures of Beatrice Shakespeare Smith in the fantasy setting of the Théâtre Illuminata, a magical theatre that houses all the characters in every play ever written. For me, the best parts (naturally) involve the Shakespeare characters—Ophelia far more than the fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream, who are mean to be the comic relief of the book but who turn out to be largely annoying. But it's intriguing to imagine Shakespeare's characters behaving as Shakespeare's characters in different settings—it's something like Six [Shakespeare] Characters in Search of an Author.

In any case, Beatrice (nicknamed “Bertie”) is given an ultimatum: she must either find a proper place and role in the theatre or leave it forever. That's where the best part comes in.  She proposes producing a radically-new version of Hamlet—one set in ancient Egypt (an idea I have often entertained seriously). Here's a sample of that part of the novel (click to enlarge the image):

Page 107

Disappointingly (especially after pages and pages have been devoted to the rehearsal of that play), the novel changes direction and the play that is presented has very little to do with Shakespeare.

All the same, the novel is diverting. And perhaps I'll get my Hamlet in Egypt in one of the other two books in the trilogy!

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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