The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle, or, Hamlet Retold


Today while my kids were playing a computer game at the library, I browsed through their used books for sale section to see if anything of interest to me had landed on the shelves since my last visit. I’m always on the lookout for a good book, even if I don’t get to it for a while. This one caught my eye. I’ve already read this book, back in 2009.  It’s truly one of my favorite reads ever.  An excellent modern tale loosely based upon ‘Hamlet’. Below is the review I posted on amazon after reading the book a few years back. I still recommend this book to people to this day, even if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare and couldn’t care less who Hamlet is.  :0) ——————————————————————————————–  “You are time, you breathe time.”

Many times over the years I have found ‘re-imaginings’ and ‘re-interpretations’ of Shakespeare’s works…’1000 Acres’ follows the basic plot of King Lear; ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a reworking/modernization of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, etc. Here, first time author David Wroblewski has taken ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet’ as the foundation for his debut novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Wroblewski cleverly hints at where he found inspiration for his story – Characters ‘Claude’ and ‘Trudy’ are the modern day counterparts of ‘Claudius’ and ‘Gertrude’, Hamlet’s Uncle/Stepfather and Mother…the tale of betrayal, murder, and the desire for revenge…the visitation of ghosts upon the protagonist…all the traditional elements of the story are cleverly woven into Wroblewski’s plot.

However….this book is also very much its own ‘animal’ in the respect that it’s also a tale of mute boy who learns to express himself through his work in the family dog-breeding business. Edgar Sawtelle, though not able to communicate with spoken word, overcomes his ‘disability’ and learns to speak to the dogs without words and communicate to them commands and lessons as he helps to train them for sale. Those who know the basic premise of ‘Hamlet’ would not be spoiled by a more indepth review of this book.

Those not familiar with Hamlet, of course, would be missing out on some well-written and emotional scenes to know them ahead of time. Therefore, I won’t spoil the plot further. Suffice to say that while this book will always invite comparisons to Shakespeare’s tragedy, it is that and a lot more. A worthy read, even for those a bit daunted by the near 600 page length. The story of Edgar Sawtelle is well worth the read. Highly recommended.


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