Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Stuck Inside of England With the Denmark Blues Again

The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig

Young Phillip's father is dead, killed in a car accident. Uncle Alan is moving in on Phillip's mom and the family business more quickly than decorum would permit. Then the ghost of Phillip's father appears to him to explain that his death was not an accident, but in fact, murder, and that his soul will be devoured by Terrors unless he is avenged.

You can see where all this is going.

At first, the idea of an 11-year-old British boy carrying out the role of Hamlet seems like a zany laugh-fest, and at first, it is. Spotting all the little Bard shout-outs like Phillip's pet angelfish, Gertie, and his closest friends, twins named Ross and Gary, is a hoot. But the book follows the play closely, and the further you read, the more you realize that no one is going to come out of this story well.

What really makes the book click, though, is Haig's willingness to go beyond sight gags and dig into the play. Some nice parallels with ancient Roman history are also made. Phillip spends a lot more one-on-one time with his dad's ghost than Hamlet did, which makes the kind of internal conflict that occurs in the play seem plausible in a modern adolescent. I loved it, and read it all in one go.

If you liked...: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, or obviously, Haig's source material, this book is for you.

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