Hagseed by Margaret Atwood Book Review

Hagseed by Margaret Atwood Book Review

A theatrical retelling of Shakespeare’s Tempest, Hagseed will rip through you with ferocity, grief and love. This incredible tour-de-force had me laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time.

Set in Canada’s theatre scene, a place of politics, nepotism and strong personalities, the protagonist Felix, the groundbreaking director of Makeshiweg Festival, is sacked from his role due to tragic personal circumstances. Twelve years later, his opportunity to get his career back appears in the guise of a theatre programme in a local prison. Felix jumps back in, staging The Tempest he had dreamed of, with revenge on those who sacked him at the heart of his plan.

I worried that a retelling of The Tempest might be dry or predictable, but this was neither – I enjoyed this novel tremendously – like all of Atwood’s writing it is punchy, emotionally hard hitting and fun. The novel plays with so many questions about genius and what great art is, how we can make it, and when it goes wrong. It also wryly explores the very real threats of funding and politics on theatre and arts programmes with disadvantaged communities.

Despite some tearjerking themes, Hagseed is never overly sentimental, and it steers clear of any myths that art is a ‘soft intervention’ for people at difficult stages of their lives. Rather, it explores and really elucidates the power of art and theatre to retell our own stories, find new meaning and reframe our identities when life throws dramatic curveballs.

I can’t recommend this novel more highly – it’s beautifully written, pacy and poignant – I’m sure Shakespeare would be proud!


Reviewed by Catherine (Trusts and Foundation Manager)


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