Ophelia, by Lisa Klein, is another alternate point of view of Hamlet.
The book opens with a letter from Horatio to Ophelia with news of the deaths of Hamlet, Laertes, Gertrude and Claudius. Oooooh, a suggestion of an alternate history from the onset. But will we buy it?
The story begins with the lady’s early life, without a mother, and how she landed in the Queen’s service at a young age. By the end of Act One, she and Hamlet have secretly fallen into their forbidden love (inasmuch as her “lowly birth” makes her unfit to marry) and suddenly, the King is dead.
Act Two is Shakespeare’s play, as told by Ophelia. There is no good way to summarize and I would prefer not to spoil some things. And Shakespeare gets complex enough without adding the differences here. I will say two things: first, Klein is careful with the original. She makes sure that when she spins a different story that it does not directly contradict anything from the actual text. Ophelia is alive because she faked her death. Using that potion that makes everyone think you are dead. Hey..Juliet had it! Oh, and she made sure that Horatio dug her right back up after they buried her. And Horatio is so honorable that he doesn’t tell his best bud, the prince, that his one true love is alive because she asked him not to. Second, and this makes all the difference in my opinion of the characters, Klein asserts in her version that Hamlet was pretending to be insane with the endgoal of Vengeance. And he went mad. Ophelia pretended to be insane to manage her escape. She escaped.
Act Three is Ophelia leaving Denmark and hanging out at the nunnery. There is a point to Act Three, but it dragged on a bit too far for my taste.
Overall, it was well done. Convoluted in the Shakespearean spirit without sacrificing everything that makes the heroine likeable.