Review: Ophelia Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

25808600Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French
Released: 22nd June 2015
Published by: HarperCollins Australia
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Retellings
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Following on from I AM JULIET (August 2014), this is the second title in a proposed new series for young people that focuses on the reinterpretation of Shakespeare's classic and enduring plays. Ages: 10+

She is the girl who will be queen: Ophelia, daughter of Denmarks lord chancellor and loved by Prince Hamlet. But while Hamlets family stab, poison or haunt one another, Ophelia plans a sensible rule, one filled with justice and the making of delicious cheeses. Even if she has to pretend to be mad to make it happen, Ophelia will let nothing, not even howling ghosts, stand in her way.

 This is Shakespeares play, but with what might also have happened behind the scenes. And this story has a happy ending.

 From Jackie French, one of Australias most respected and awarded authors and the Australian Childrens Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year, comes a book that reimagines the life of one of Shakespeares most intriguing female characters.
Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Having read and studied Hamlet this year, I always found Ophelia to be a particularly interesting character - as she's one who is partly overshadowed by the other dramas of the tragic protagonist. In this beautifully told and somewhat re-imagined tale, the author has shed light on the type of person Ophelia was behind her seemingly demure disposition. Adding her magic touch, Jackie French has only enriched the story of this play which has captivated audiences for centuries. 

Deep inside me, a small illusion broke. Hamlet had been born with a head to bear a crown, but did he have the stomach to be king?

In this novel there is an effortless weaving of the original plot of the play, with a few adjustments which although nontraditional, make the story that much more enthralling. Ophelia proves to be much more than just a subservient daughter bound by filial duty. Instead, she is portrayed as an intelligent young woman attempting to discern the ever-changing and duplicitous court around her. Elsinore Castle and Hamlet himself, as well as the ghosts she encounters leave more mystery behind and questions unanswered. It was fascinating to read about how she developed as a person who began to see through the lies, and offer her perceptions into Queen Gertrude's actions as well. 

It was time for a new rule now. Kindness instead of hate. Compassion for our people. No shadows, no vengeance from the past. Just good sense, and cheese. 

What is also refreshing is that this rendition is unpredictable. If you know the play, you'll notice the little nuances which have been highlighted, modified, or altered altogether. Though this is ultimately still a tragedy, there is also a sense of hope which reaches even further beyond Shakespeare's script. I think that this would be fantastic for readers who perhaps didn't connect with Hamlet but are willing to read a similar piece of prose. I dare say however that even the most educated fans could take something away from Ophelia; Queen of Denmark as another literary insight into one of the most multifaceted yet understated women in Shakespearean drama. 


This vividly told and richly envisioned novel was an absolute pleasure to read. Jackie French has once again shone as an author who can take something already great, and make it into an original tale that is just as captivating. If you like this sort of Shakespearean retelling, I'd definitely also recommend I Am Juliet. 


  1. I love the cover of this book, and it sounds so interesting. Yours is the first review I've seen of it and I am so glad you loved it. My friend loves Jackie French and is always telling me how good her boos are. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this to see for myself. Great review, thanks for sharing.

    1. It's really good Rochelle! I love how it's taken the original plotline and added in some original twists and ideas - hopefully you get to reading it as well :)


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