The Story of Edgar Sawtelle


"He had not opened his eyes in the moment. Her touch had released some tiny increment of the poison bound up in him that would, days to come, ripen into sorrow. And by the time he thought all this he could no longer tell if her caress had truly happened or whether he'd manufactured it out of necessity."

I don't know where to start with this book. It has received a lot of mixed praise and criticism, but I loved it. I loved Edgar so much that my eyes swam with tears more than once because I loved Edgar more than any character in maybe any book.

Edgar Sawtelle is a re-telling of Hamlet. Easily my favorite Shakespeare play, and this book has confirmed it, because of the complexity of the characters. Why did Gertrude marry Claudius? Does Hamlet forgive his mother for that? Does Ophelia understand how much Hamlet loved her? Did Hamlet really go insane? Why the pirates? These are questions I have considered as I read Edgar Sawtelle, and turned back to my copy of Shakespeare's complete works to check on things I thought were there, or to remember certain characters and events. The re-telling is subtle. Which is beautiful because it is not about Hamlet, it is about Edgar. But is also in a way, about each of us.

I was in a Shakespeare class last year and my teacher asked us if we thought that Shakespeare loved Hamlet. I didn't know what to think. Does an author love his characters? Then, (in the spirit of anti-New Criticism) he said, "Does it change your mind if you knew that Shakespeare's own son was named Hamnet?" Of course it did.

Maybe this review doesn't make sense, but reading Edgar Sawtelle was like reading about my own past to some extent. We all feel misunderstood. We all experience that love that you can't express because it is so much. We all lose things and people that are important to us. We are all Hamlet.


emilymcb said...

I read this book a few months ago, and I've always had a hard time defining my feelings about it. I really liked your review.

Erin {pughs' news} said...

I love Hamlet. I'm eager to give this book a go now.

Just finished The Forgotten Garden. Epic, complicated and lovely. Have you read it?

Lizzy said...

ok i just scrolled down and read your last few posts and I loved them! NOt sure if its exactly what I'm supposed to be doing but Hey, it's P-day and hey, i'm on blogger now.

I loved your references to God giving talents and to general conference :) When Elder Uchdorf talked about about reaching people I thought of you and how many people you can reach through your blog. Love yoU!

Brittany said...

I think you have fabulous taste in literature and you write about books so well. I'm adding this to my immediate list.

jessica renae said...

this definitely sounds like one to put on my "to-read" list!

and yes! julie's been my t.a. for three different classes the last couple of semesters! she's one who got me interested in the project (along with dr. day of course)! crazy small world, isn't it?? :)

Rebekka Seale said...

Oh, I've wanted to read this for so so long. Wonderful review....