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The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet Playfully Reinvents Hamlet

April 8, 2010
The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet by Myrlin Hermes
published by Harper Perennial January 26, 2010

Horatio, illegitimate and penniless, was raised by monks, but he grew up a skeptic. When offered admission to university if he converts to Protestantism, he readily agrees, since he “might just as well doubt one religion as another.” A perpetual student and poet, he is commissioned by a baron to write a play, an endeavor that blossoms into a full-scale theatrical production. Horatio finds himself attracted to two very different people: Adriana, the baron’s plain but audacious wife, and Hamlet, the beautiful prince of Denmark. What follows is a complicated bisexual love triangle that keeps you guessing until the end.

This book is, in a sense, a prequel to Hamlet, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, offering an imaginative, playful proposition on how the play came to be written. Parts of Hamlet, along with snippets of Shakespeare’s other plays and sonnets, are pieced together in a colorful collage.

It is easy to see that Myrlin Hermes is inspired by The Bard — she writes eloquently and revels in wordplay. As Ryan at Wordsmithsonia pointed out, each word is carefully chosen, and they are often playful and witty. This novel also offers a labrynthine plot — often comic and sometimes tragic — fitting for a homage to Shakespeare. And it’s often raunchy — also in the spirit of Shakespeare.

This is a unique novel that will be enjoyed by many readers, and it would make a fun Book Club pick. I definitely recommend it.

Many thanks to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review.

Other Reviews: BookNAround, The Literary Omnivore, Wordsmithonia, Did I Miss Yours?


7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 4:47 am

    I like the sound of this one – something a bit different and fun!

  2. April 8, 2010 5:49 am

    The more time that goes by since I've finished the book, the more I'm appreciating the skill this author has in her craft.I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

  3. April 8, 2010 1:07 pm

    I have to stop reading your blog! My books-to-read list is growing even faster than before I started stopping in. (But I'm finding some great books thanks to you.) This one has just been added….

  4. April 8, 2010 1:47 pm

    I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy this one or not, but your review has convinced me that it might be worth a try. It's been a long time since I read Shakespeare, but I think I remember most of Hamlet.–AnnaDiary of an Eccentric

  5. April 8, 2010 8:55 pm

    I'm definitely curious about this book – I'm glad to hear it remains faithful to the spirit of Shakespeare!

  6. April 8, 2010 9:39 pm

    I like that you pointed out that the book is raunchy, but that that's in the spirit of Shakespeare. I think we forget how raunchy it was because we don't speak like that anymore. Love your review and I'm glad you liked the book!

  7. April 9, 2010 3:27 am

    Year Of The flood and Dirty Little Secrets are two books I really want to read 🙂

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