A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson (Recieved ARC from BEA 2013)
Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan isn’t the only girl at Elsinor Academy. But she is the only one who can see and communicate with the spirits of the dead. In the public world, the one in which her overbearing father and brother keeps a close eye on her, this is a very bad trait to possess. But in the comforts and the privacy of her four bedroom walls, Ophelia finds it intriguing.
So when she sees the spirit of the newly deceased Headmaster, Hamlet, Ophelia knows something isn’t right. Instead, something is wrong … terribly wrong. Only troubled spirits are bound to this Earth, living a torturous life after death. But Hamlet isn’t just one spirit, he’s two separate spirits – one that’s full of anger and rage, the other the real Hamlet that she knew and loved.
Hamlet didn’t just die, he was murdered. As Ophelia struggles alongside Dane, the Headmaster’s grieving son, to piece together this mystery, she finds herself slowly but surely slipping further and further away from actual reality and into a world unknown and unseen.
A Wounded Name is a debut novel written by author Dot Hutchinson.
Judging by the above mentioned characters, you’ve probably already guessed that Hutchinson’s debut is a retelling of the Shakespearian classic Hamlet, set within the walls of a privileged boarding school. Hutchinson’s writing is strong and lyrical. She doesn’t just tell a story, she shows it.
From the start Hutchinson’s writing has readers wondering in what direction she’s going to take this already familiar story? But as the pages progress readers soon find that A Wounded Name is a retelling, just not as modern as they’d like. Sure it’s be framed by a new setting, but the mindset hasn’t been changed.
Ophelia, in both the classic and Hutchinson’s version, is unreliable. But the thing is: she didn’t have to be. Hutchinson had the chance to, not only flesh out this flat character, but to breathe a new, independent life into her. Instead, as a main character Ophelia falls short. I found myself often agitated by her, wanting desperately to shake some sense into her.
Yes, I wanted to shake sense into her. Especially when it came to her love for Dane, the Headmaster’s son. Ophelia loves Dane, and it’s blatantly clear that she will do whatever it takes to keep him close to her, even if that means letting him choke her. Their relationship isn’t healthy, neither is Ophelia’s acceptance of this kind of abuse.
Beyond that I found my real issue with A Wounded Name was that it’s labeled as a “modern” reworking of a classic tale. In today’s modern world women are considered a man’s equal. But this wasn’t the case for the world in which Ophelia lives. While her brother Laertes is free to sleep around, Ophelia is closed up in her room.
Beyond that, I found even the curriculum at Elsinor Academy was sexist. Girls were forced to take classes that would prepare them to be successful wives and mothers, classes that told Ophelia and her female classmates that their role within society is to – literally – stand behind their accomplished men.
For so many reasons I wanted to love Hutchinson’s A Wounded Name. But the truth is, for me as a reader, there were way too many moments – between the obvious sexism and abuse – that I couldn’t turn a blind eye to.