Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet--Myrlin Hermes (book review)

Behind every work of fiction lies some form of truth. So, what might be the truth behind Shakespeare's tragic play, Hamlet? That's the question that drives The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet.

Imagine that Horatio is a regular old sixteenth century bisexual guy who meets a Danish prince and falls in love. Eventually he writes a play inspired by bits and pieces of Hamlet's life, but first, there must be love triangles, misunderstandings, and people disguised as other people--because Shakespeare is all about the love triangles and disguises, after all, and Horatio is Shakespeare. That is, he is the playwright who, at the end of the novel, writes the famous tragic play.

It gets complicated. Myrlin Hermes' novel has been described as a prequel to Hamlet, but it's not quite that simple, because the plot of Hamlet (the play) is not the truth of what happens to Hamlet (the character in the novel). Behind the scenes of Hamlet's story, though, the themes remain the same. The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet offers a new twist on those themes, without all that messy blood and poison at the end, and offers readers a chance to reread the play with a new perspective on both the characters, and the author behind them.

By Alison Jakel

This book was provided for review by TLC Book Tours. The opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and have not been approved or influenced by TLC book tours, the publisher, or the author.


  1. It's been so long since I've read Hamlet, I wonder if I would understand this book.

  2. Care, it was really interesting--and funny. I think I forgot to say that it was funny.

    Kathy--I don't think you'd have any trouble understanding it, because most of the book is stuff that would have happened before the play even began. There was one point where I stopped reading to find out who Polonius and Laertes were, and how they were related to the queen--a quick googling would have done the trick but it was much more fun to wake my husband up with a series of unexpected Shakespeare questions. :-)

  3. At this time last year I would have had less than no interest in this book, but much to my own surprise, I ended up re-reading Hamlet this year and really appreciating it so much more than I did when I read it in high school (hey, it *does* happen!) That said, now this seems like it might make for an interesting read, especially considering how much ambiguity is given to the characters in the play, so it must be fun, as a writer, to dig a little deeper.

    Thanks for the great review!

  4. I love that the author put a fresh spin on Shakespeare. She seems to have used a lot of things in her novel that Shakespeare used, and I think this would probably be a blast to read in a book group. Thanks for being on the tour!

  5. This sounds like a really interesting book! Thanks for the review.

  6. Horatio as a bisexual? Interesting. He's so absent from the text (being dead and all) you could create any kind of personality for him.

    Maybe I'm alone in this, but I'd rather see what someone could do with Hamlet's relationship to his closest living friend (name escapes me)who conspires with him in his plans. That kind of closeness leads to all kinds of possibilities.

  7. Jodie, nope you're not alone at all--Horatio is the closest friend's name! That's exactly what this author did. :-)

  8. ". . .offers readers a chance to reread the play with a new perspective on both the characters, and the author behind them."

    Now isn't that what I said about Edgar Sawtelle? ;-)

    Jodie-- Alas, did you mean Yorick?

  9. Chris, yes--and I have another Hamlet-based book in my pile as well. Maybe I should have a Hamlet month? Though at the rate I've been reading lately, Edgar Sawtelle would take me a year.