With the help of James Peacock of Peacock Computers, I spent much of the day trying to clear space in a clogged up iMac. 21,000 photographs has been too much for it.

Elizabeth came for lunch, of which Jackie provided enough for the two of us to enjoy a second sitting this evening.

“Hag-Seed, hence! Fetch us in fuel…..”

Thus does Prospero send Caliban off to fetch in wood in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

But you don’t need to know that to enjoy Margaret Atwood’s marvellous retelling of the Bard’s magical, musical mystery. Her novel is a triumphant addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare Project in which modern writers are invited to present the playwright’s work with a modern interpretation. I finished reading it today.

The original play is brought into the world of today’s technology, featuring drugs, cigarettes, rap and up-to-date musical references. As always I will not reveal the essence of Atwood’s inventive story, but the 2016 reviews were uniformly positive. Deception; disappointment; attempted ravages; revenge; and rollicking rampage are themes given new twists in a setting which provides ample opportunity for skilled group work.

This is a writer at the height of her powers. The novel races along, and her qualities as a poet shine through in her new songs. I don’t know how much research was required for her impressive understanding of either the setting she has chosen or its residents, but Ms Atwood has taken us right there.

As indicated above, no knowledge of the play is required, but you will have a very good idea of it by the time you have completed your reading. You will then be rewarded with a synopsis of Shakespeare’s original, against which you can balance what you have understood. You may then decide to pick up Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

I certainly sought out my copy to illustrate this post. It is The Folio Society’s 1971 edition featuring

Ralph Koltai’s costume designs for the 1968 Chichester Festival.

We dined this evening on Jackie’s luscious leek and potato soup, cold meats, cheeses, and plentiful salad, with Elizabeth’s moist Dorset apple cake. I drank more of the Paniza.



  1. On behalf of an Antipodean town called Stratford, with street names that include Ariel and Prospero (but no Caliban), I wood (get it?) like to thank you for the review of Margaret Atwood.

  2. Sometimes it is an excellent thing to have Shakespeare dusted off and rekitted for an audience who might not go at the pace of the original, so the stories are not lost–thanks for displaying the illustrations.

  3. The Tempest is one of my favorite plays. Atwood is a gem. I will be sure to check out her version of The Tempest.

  4. I’ll just go ahead and lose everyone’s respect by saying that the Bard has not often thrilled me. Margaret Atwood, however, rarely ceases to. I will check this out for sure. Thanks, Derrick!

  5. She is a powerful writer. Absolutely. At the moment she’s at the centre of a CanLit controversy due to an essay published in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Another kind of tempest. I haven’t read the Atwood Canon (shhh! I might get deported) though I have read both Alias Grace and A Handmaid’s Tale – before they became TV sensations. I’m sure I’ve read others over the years, too but not Hag-Seed. Another to go on the ever expanding list!

  6. I have found that somewhat like William Wordsworth, Margaret Atwood too should be read in selection, not in collection. Of course, that is a very personal opinion formulated while labouring my way out of ‘Blind Assassin’ and the ‘Madaddam’ series. Ralph Koltai’s sketches are specially suited to the volume of The Tempest.

  7. Yes! I’ve recently read Hagseed by Atwood too. Marvellous interpretation and highly voted for in our local book group. Love those costume designs – thanks for including those??

  8. I will certainly check out her re-working of one of my favourite Shakespeare’s. I have no doubt whatsoever that I will enjoy it. I loved those costumes from the Chichester Festival … I would have been 7 at the time.

  9. Shakespeare’s body of work is timeless – Atwood’s sounds like a wonderful new rendition! I love the costume illustrations you chose – just fabulous!

  10. Smart review, thanks! I think you could write a post extolling Jackie’s delectable, sumptuous cooking and it would captivate us all–and have to say I’m not a big eater and generally don’t much care what I ingest for fuel. But I would surely try one or more of her meals!

  11. I have read Ms Atwood’s books and there is always mystical elements. The Tempest sounds great in any form. The illustrations of costumes were particularly special through my mind. ✨

      1. It was a break for 15 minutes at work. It flew by but caught me up a bit while still interested in the rest of what has been happening in your corner of the world.

  12. I thought about re-igniting the whole “did Shakespeare exist?” discussion but that would just be mischievous.

    Instead I will merely query “leak and potato soup”. After last year’s brush will urology there are certain words that still make me wince. 🙂

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