A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Length: 320 pages
Subjects: Hamlet, Shakespeare, Abuse, Retelling, Boarding School
How I obtained the book: Library; hardcover
Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Even when she takes her pills, the bean sidhe beckon, reminding her of a promise to her dead mother.Now, in the wake of the Headmaster’s sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, and Ophelia can no longer ignore the fae. Especially once she starts seeing the Headmaster’s ghosts- two of them- on the school grounds.At the center of her crumbling world is Dane, the Headmaster’s grieving son. He, too, understands the power of a promise to a parent- even a dead one. To him, Ophelia is the only person not tainted by deceit and hypocrisy, a mirror of his own broken soul. And to Ophelia, Dane quickly becomes everything. Yet even as she gives more of herself to him, Dane slips away. Consumed by suspicion, rage, and madness, he spirals towards his tragic fate- dragging Ophelia, and the rest of Elsinore, with him.
YOU KNOW HOW THIS STORY ENDS.
Yet even in the face of certain death, Ophelia has a choice to make- and a promise to keep. She is not the girl others want her to be. But in Dot Hutchison’s dark and sensuous debut novel, the name “Ophelia” is as deeply, painfully, tragically real as “Hamlet”.
Don’t tell anyone, but the truth is I have never read Hamlet. So, reading A Wounded Name was a bit of an adventure for me and I don’t think I experienced it in its entirety, but even so, I really adored A Wounded Name.
A Wounded Name is a very hard book to like. There are some very uncomfortable themes and it’s a very dark book. If you prefer not to read books with abuse (emotional and physical) and suicide, this is not the book for you.
What makes Hutchison’s retelling different from most retellings (whether they are Shakespeare retellings or not) is the atmosphere. Most authors try to modernize their retelling by making the overall story lighter, but Hutchison definitely did not. A Wounded Name is morbid and disturbing and it makes your skin crawl while reading it. At risk of sounding a bit cliche, I must say that there is honestly no light in this book.
The writing in this book is something that makes two distinct groups of readers – those who loved it and those who hated it. It really depends on how flowery you can handle your language. Personally, I thought the language fit the book perfectly, even if it did at times make reading incredibly slow. The language felt like it was straight out of a Shakespeare play.
One mountain to overcome while reading this book is the fact that you will not like anyone in the book. This isn’t a retelling where Hamlet is a lovable character and you can relate to Ophelia. At some parts of the book, you’ll want to scream because there just isn’t a character that is truly likable except for maybe Horatio, though he is a very minor character.
This will work for some people, but for others it won’t. The majority of complaints about this book center around the characters. They are not meant to be likable, and it can get heavy at times. Unsurprisingly, Hamlet is a very unlikable, repulsive character. It doesn’t detract from the story, in my opinion, but rather strengthen it.
The famed relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet is portrayed in a dark, foreboding manner. It is unhealthy and abusive, yet Hutchison managed to make it strangely alluring. While she does not romanticize the relationship, the general foggy, ethereal tone to the novel manages to draw the reader into the dark reality of the relationship – with its ups and its downs.
According to what I’ve heard, A Wounded Name follows the original play very closely. Instead of the original setting, A Wounded Name is set in a tight-knit boarding school. While the boarding school theme is incredibly overused and dull at this point, I didn’t mind it too much in A Wounded Name. The way the author fit the royal family of the original into the ruling family at an elite school was very well done.
In all, I really loved this absolutely fantastic retelling. It’s not a book for everyone and a lot of people will, and already do, not like it but I think it’s definitely worth reading if you see yourself enjoying this type of book.